The research team of Whale Trust Maui consists of a core group of individuals that share a commitment for science, education and the power of photography in promoting marine conservation and supporting scientific research.
But we couldn’t do this work alone. It takes the help and assistance of many people including colleagues, volunteers and students to carry out these projects successfully.
[one-half-first]Whale Trust Maui Research Projects
Whale Trust Maui has several ongoing research projects that focus on behavior, social organization, and communication of humpback whales. The primary objective of these projects is to contribute to the understanding of natural behavior patterns in whales and provide critical insights into how living in a marine environment may impact mammalian biology.
Research Project Leaders
Jim Darling, Ph.D.
- Comparison of Song Changes Throughout the North Pacific
The purpose of this project is to examine and analyze the similarities, differences and dynamics of change in thecomposition of songs between humpbacks in Hawaii, Mexico, Japan and the Philippines. Whale Trust Maui is leading this project with collaboration from researchers in each of these areas.
- Social Function of Humpback Whale Song
For the past several years, Whale Trust Maui researchers have been playing back sounds produced by male whales (songs, social sounds) to male and female humpbacks to see how they respond to the sounds, hoping to increase our understanding of how sounds mitigate interactions between whales on the breeding grounds. Last year, the team completed 25 song playbacks to male singers off Maui. This year, the team will continue this research by playing back songs to other singers to investigate the role, function and impact of song on other whales.
Meagan Jones, Ph.D.
- Social and Reproductive Behavior of Humpback Whales
Humpback whales are one of the most intensively studied species of whales. Yet our knowledge of female reproductive behavior, and how the female fits into the social structure of humpback breeding and calving grounds, remains one of the great unknowns in humpback whale behavior. The purpose of this study is to investigate how female reproductive status (i.e., the presence or absence of a calf) affects female behavior patterns and interactions with males on the Hawaiian breeding grounds. Meagan is currently in the process of analyzing and writing up the results of this five-year study.
Charles “Flip” Nicklin & Jason Sturgis
- Research Photography
The purpose of this project is to systematically document, through high quality digital photography and video, the social alliances and behavior patterns, occurring both at the surface and underwater, of humpback whales on the Hawaiian breeding grounds. This work is integral to the research projects on song function and female behavior in providing photographic data to determine sex, observe the spatial relationships of individuals, and for the analysis of behavioral sequences. This project includes the editing, cataloging and archiving of photographs and video for future research and education use.