Research Overview

One of the founding principles of Pacific Whale Foundation is to contribute to the scientific understanding of marine life and marine ecosystems. Our research program uses a two-pronged approach of long-term and short-term projects.

Short-term studies are based on specific questions and issues in contemporary research. They contribute to the peer-reviewed body of knowledge that is disseminated primarily via scientific journals, reports, and meetings of the scientific community and resource management agencies. Long-term projects generally involve collection of data over many years, producing results at a lower rate but providing the background information for short-term efforts. These types of studies are also necessary to detect and monitor trends, particularly those related to the impact of anthropogenic (human) pressures on our oceans and wildlife.

Pacific Whale Foundation’s research efforts and funded projects are focused primarily in Hawaii, Australia, Ecuador and Chile. Other study sites have included Alaska, Japan and Tonga; and we work in collaboration with researchers in other areas throughout the Pacific. As part of our core advocacy work on behalf of whales, Pacific Whale Foundation is also actively involved in the proceedings of the International Whaling Commission, commonly known as the IWC.

CURRENT STUDIES

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OUR TEAM

  • Jens Currie Chief Scientist

    Jens came to Pacific Whale Foundation in 2013 as a data analyst and was appointed to research manager in 2015. He serves as research chair (alternate) on the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary advisory council and as a first responder on NOAA’s Large Whale Entanglement Response team. His research focuses on investigating potential anthropogenic impacts on cetacean populations. As an analyst, he has a wide and varied background including studying lobster fecundity in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, modelling the impacts of aquaculture pens on the surrounding environment, and evaluating ecosystem goods and services in coastal South Africa.

    As Pacific Whale Foundation’s senior analyst, Jens is responsible for designing research studies and ensuring information is collected in a standardized manner to allow for rigorous statistical analysis. His research focuses on distance sampling, modelling cetacean population dynamics, and cetacean interactions with marine debris.

  • Stephanie Stack Chief Biologist

    Stephanie came to Pacific Whale Foundation in 2013 as a marine mammal biologist and was appointed to research manager in 2015. She also serves on NOAA’s Hawaiian Monk Seal and Large Whale Entanglement Response teams. Her research has focused on marine mammal behavior and ecology with a focus on under-studied species. As an international researcher, she has worked with harp and harbor seals in eastern Canada, Antillean manatee and bottlenose dolphins in Belize, and developing communities and marine conservation in South Africa.

    As Pacific Whale Foundation’s senior marine mammal biologist, Stephanie ensures our research evolves to answer the most biologically relevant questions for the study species. Her research focuses on North and South Pacific population of humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins, spotted dolphins, and false killer whales, studying aspects of population ecology, behavior, patterns of residency, associations between individuals, and animal health.

  • Cristina Castro Ecuador Research Director

    Cristina received a Ph.D. in Biology and a B.A. in Biology and Chemistry at the Central University of Ecuador. Her research interests are conservation of marine mammals and their ocean habitat in Ecuador. Since 1997, her studies have focused on the breeding grounds of humpback whales in the Machalilla National Park in Ecuador. Cristina has also directed marine mammal environmental education programs and written books on environmental education for indigenous children living in the Ecuadorian jungle and coast.

  • Grace Olson Research Biologist

    Grace joined the Pacific Whale Foundation in 2017 as a research assistant after completing her graduate studies on sound patterns of social vocalizations in the Amazon River dolphins in Peru. Her research has focused on odontocete photo-identification, with emphasis on poorly studied species such as the Dusky dolphins in New Zealand, and Amazon River dolphins in Brazil and Peru.

    As Pacific Whale Foundation’s research assistant, she curates the Odontocete Photo-ID Catalogs for numerous species of dolphins, and oversees the Adopt an Animal program.

  • Abigail Machernis Research Biologist

    Abigail joined Pacific Whale Foundation in 2018 after completing her Master’s in Coastal Environmental Management from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Her research has focused on evaluating the impacts of human interactions on bottlenose dolphins in the Florida panhandle. She was previously a contractor for NOAA’s Southeast Regional Office, where she worked as a large whale biologist assisting with the management and conservation of large whale species in the Gulf of Mexico.

    As Pacific Whale Foundation’s research biologist, she assists with data analysis and preparation of reports and scholarly articles.

  • Florence Sullivan Research Analyst

    Florence joined the Pacific Whale Foundation in 2019 as a research analyst. She has an M.Sc. in Wildlife Science from Oregon State University where her thesis research focused on exploring gray whale foraging ecology and behavior patterns relative to prey availability and vessel disturbance on the Oregon Coast. Previously she has worked with the Environmental Science Center in Seattle, teaching marine conservation to K-12 students, and as an oceanography contractor for NOAA Auke Bay Laboratory on joint Fisheries-Oceanography surveys in the Bering Sea. As Pacific Whale Foundation’s research analyst, she is responsible for managing our long-term data sets and conducting statistical analyses to answer research questions.

  • Dan Kraver Research Assistant

  • Desmond Lai Research Assistant

  • Kate Wicks Research Assistant

  • Lizzy Beato Research Assistant

  • Mikaela Dibble-Khan Research Assistant

APPLY FOR AN INTERNSHIP!

Learn more about Pacific Whale Foundation’s Research Internship Program.

COVID-19 UPDATE

Our thoughts go out to all that are being impacted by COVID-19. With a team dedicated to our response to this pandemic, we are meeting regularly to ensure the continuation of programs and services that allow our mission work to continue.

Pacific Whale Foundation’s leadership team is closely monitoring updates from the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization regarding COVID-19. We will continue to seek guidance from these agencies, public health officials and government agencies on an ongoing basis.

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