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Nan Hauser

Whale Biologist

Nan Hauser is the President and Director of the Center for Cetacean Research and Conservation. Her home base is in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, where she is the Principal Investigator for the Cook Islands Whale Research Project and Director of the Cook Islands Whale & Wildlife Centre. Read more…

News & Updates :

Follow our satellite tagging process through the blog of team member Travis Horton!

http://megaptera14.blogspot.co.nz/

We are back on 60 Minutes: Return of the Humpback

Scott Pelley received so much positive feedback from Return of the

Painting the Marine Park Information Centre (Marae Moana)

Painted! The Whale Research team spent some days painting a whale

Biography

Nan HauserNan Hauser is the President and Director of the Center for Cetacean Research and Conservation. Her home base is in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, where she is the Principal Investigator for the Cook Islands Whale Research Project and Director of the Cook Islands Whale & Wildlife Centre. Nan’s research includes population identity, Photo ID, acoustics, genetics, surface & underwater behaviour, navigation and migration of cetaceans. Her satellite tag work includes results on how whales migrate over long distances using linear constant course segments.

For almost a decade she was involved with the Ocean Alliance’s cetacean research expeditions aboard the R/V Odyssey. As Founder and Director of the New England Dolphin Outreach Project she has taught on a global level for the Dolphin Research Center, Whale Conservation Institute and many other non-profit organizations. As a Registered Nurse, she teaches and practices medicine on the outer islands of the Cooks. She is currently on the Board of Directors of the Ajubatus Foundation in South Africa and has been awarded an International title of “Earth Ambassador”.

Her field research includes the Cook Islands and the Bahamas studying beaked whales, dolphins and other cetaceans, Nan serves on the Executive Committee, as a scientific contributor and as Secretariat of the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium. She was a key player in the creation of a 2 million square kilometer whale sanctuary in the E.E.Z. of the Cook Islands and currently serves as a Trustee for the Cook Islands Marine Park. Nan has been the subject of many Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, National Geographic and Smithsonian films. She also holds a US Coastguard 100 tonne Captain’s license.

Memberships and Affiliations:

Center for Cetacean Research & Conservation
Cook Islands Whale Research
Cook Islands Whale & Wildlife Centre
South Pacific Whale Research Consortium
International Fund for Animal Welfare
Cook Islands Marine Park
Cook Islands Voyaging Society
Te Ipukarea Society
Conservation International “Partnering with Local Heroes”

Teaching Areas:

Earth sciences, whale biology, research methodology, conservation, migration, navigation, stranding workshops, acoustics, behavior, marine protected areas and sanctuaries, global climate change.

Research Areas:

Population Identity
Photo Identification
Acoustics
Genetics
Biology
Satellite Tagging
Migration & navigation
Strandings
Cetacean biology and health

Awards:

Ocean Voices
Gifts to the Earth
Earth Ambassador
Ambassador for Sustainable Seas
Excellence in Nursing Award, RN

Our Team

John Beasley
Drone & Underwater Cameraman
Natalie Barefoot
Cetacean Law Expert
Yei-Hsuan Huang
Research Assistant
Alyssa Stoller
Research Assistant
PAUL MANGAKAHIA
Research Assistant
Byron Brown
Social Media Strategist
Cameron Thorp
Whale Observer
Ali Haible
Research Assistant
Kevin Iro
Keep It Blu Team
Rochelle Constantine
South Pacific Whale Research Consortium
Phillip Clapham
South Pacific Whale Research Consortium
Evaraima Baxter
Whale Observer
Abigail Robinson
Research Assistant
Frances Little
Research Associate
Scott Baker
South Pacific Whale Research Consortium
Jenifer Austin
Google Ocean Associate
Claire Garrigue
South Pacific Whale Research Consortium
Dr Barbara Bollard-Breen
PhD Affliiate
David Paton
South Pacific Whale Research Consortium
Michael Noad
South Pacific Whale Research Consortium
Michael Donoghue
South Pacific Whale Research Consortium

Research

The Center for Cetacean Research & Conservation (CCRC) conducts and facilitates benign research on whales and dolphins

The conservation status and biology of most cetaceans are poorly understood. Many cetacean populations are threatened; quite a few are endangered; all are susceptible to humankind’s interference with marine ecosystems. Multidisciplinary scientific research is needed to develop appropriate conservation strategies. CCRC has undertaken studies on the biology, behavior, and ecology of a variety of cetaceans.QK6R8154

In 1996, CCRC researchers began documenting populations of bottlenose dolphins, spotted dolphins, and dense-beaked whales in the Bahamas. CCRC efforts over the past eight seasons have revealed a novel feeding technique by bottlenose dolphins, the first underwater footage of beaked whales and underwater footage of a sperm whale with a broken jaw.

In 1998, CCRC initiated Cook Islands Humpback Whale Survey, a long-term study of the depleted yet unstudied humpback whales of the central South Pacific. This study focuses on humpbacks while they are in the waters of the Cook Islands, a chain of 15 islands in the central tropical South Pacific. Humpbacks frequent the Cook Islands during the austral winter, to breed and calve. The Cook Islands offer an unprecedented opportunity to study the status and population identity of humpback whales in the central South Pacific, information vital for developing appropriate conservation measures for this endangered species.

Research Objectives

1. Document population of humpback whales and other cetaceans.

2. Photo-identification of individual animals using digital imaging and digital video.

3. Document distribution of cetaceans within the area and compare this to the distribution of other species of marine life and oceanographic variables.

4. Opportunistically collect (1) sloughed skin (2) biopsied skin (3) blubber samples (4) faecal samples for genetic & hormonal analysis (5) Opportunistically and non-invasively collect animal bodily fluids and tissues from live or dead animals.

5. Carry out surface and underwater behavioural observations of dolphins & whales.

6. To record and assess diving behaviour of humpback whales, beaked whales and sperm whales in the area.

7. Involve and engage Cook Islanders in the research process to further their understanding of and commitment to marine conservation through public outreach sessions offered to schools and community groups.

8. Opportunistically film television documentaries and news stories, write magazine articles and blogs.

9. Rescue and rehabilitate cetaceans that “strand” themselves on the shores of the Cook Islands.

10. Share data with the members of the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium to compare and publish findings.

11. Examine the DNA of each individual whale to determine genetic relationships, common ancestors and migration routes using genotype matching.

Conservation Initiatives:

1. Providing curriculum enrichment and community outreach programs.

2. Publishing scientific  findings in both professional and popular formats through various media.

3. Offering practical experiences for interns and volunteers.

4. Providing education films for television and movie theaters.

5. Including the local community in cetacean “strandings”

6. To collaborate with and facilitate organizations and individuals of complementary purpose.

 

Humpback whales in the South Pacific

Background

Humpbacks are the most studied of the large whales, yet much of their basic biology remains unknown. There are few estimates of central South Pacific humpback population parameters, until recent studies.

Humpbacks have been hunted extensively in the South Pacific by commercial and pirate whalers, as recently as 25 years ago. Indeed, disregarding an international moratorium on high seas whaling, several nations are clamoring to resume the hunt in these waters. Small island nations of Oceania are especially vulnerable to financial incentives offered by countries that continue to hunt whales. The Cook Islands have led the way in whale conservation by claiming a 2 million square kilometer whale sanctuary in their exclusive economic zone. Other countries have followed suit such as French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Niue, Palau, Tokelau, Tonga, Kirabati and other island nations.

The Cook Islands offer an unprecedented opportunity to study the status of humpback whales in the central South Pacific, information vital for developing conservation measures for this endangered species.

Two years ago we used the scientific data collected from New Caledonia, Tonga, The Cook Islands and French Polynesia to successfully list the humpback whales across Oceania as “Endangered”. This is an enormous feat in the protection of the whales and has prevented the Japanese whalers from being able to add humpback whales to their harvesting quota.

Various behaviors are observed both on the surface and under water. CCRC collects valuable data and footage including but not limited to: diving behavior, mother and calf relationships, male escort relationships, group structure, male competition and migration.

 

Satellite-taggingSatellite tagging

Satellite tags are carefully placed on humpback whales to determine migration patterns. Whales are tracked via satellite and their GPS position downloaded via the ARGOS system. CCRC involves schools and classes in Rarotonga and through local television & newspapers we plot the paths of these tagged humpbacks.

Little is known about the winter movements of these animals, and there is no information regarding where they feed in the Antarctic. The Cook Islands aggregation appears to be small and transient, and recent photo-identification matches have shown connections with other areas (principally Tonga, but also Samoa, French Polynesia and even New Caledonia).

In September 2006 and 2007 CCRC attached Argos satellite-monitored tags to eight humpback whales of various sex and behavioral classes. All whales were tagged in the near-shore waters of Rarotonga. We reported the movements of seven whales satellite-tagged in the Cook Islands, including the first documented migration to an Antarctic feeding ground.

Transmitters were attached to a stainless steel anchoring system. Satellite transmitter (Wildlife Computers implantable SPOT3/4) was deployed in
humpback whales in the Cook Island on the left or right flank of the whales from about 1–2 m ahead of the dorsal fin and usually within 2 m from the midline of the whale’s body.  This was accomplished with an 8-m pole deployed from a small motorboat. We would repeat this study during the first 2 weeks of September this year.

Opportunistically we tag other species (ie Sperm Whales) if the circumstances were appropriate. Along with using a pole, we will use a small firing system for more accurate attachment.

 

Acoustics

Male humpback whales sing long and complex songs in the waters of the Cook Islands and other winter breeding grounds in the tropical oceans. Since male humpbacks usually only sing during the breeding season, it is likely that the song serves a reproductive function. The song may serve to attract females, to sort dominance among other males, or to maintain a distance between courting males. Songs are recorded using hydrophones (underwater microphones) and M-Audio digital recorders. Photo-IDs, video, and skin samples are collected from singers whenever practical. Song structure and form have been compared among the Cook Islands’ humpbacks and songs recorded at other breeding grounds across the South Pacific and around the world. Because humpback song varies geographically, comparative analysis of song will be used in addition to comparative genetic techniques to determine the stock identity of Cook Islands humpbacks. Moreover, analysis of song and singers’ behavior should yield insights into the functional significance of the humpback song. In the 2001 field season we recorded a humpback whale off Rarotonga with a new and different song. Within the next 10 days, the humpbacks in the Cook Islands waters included a phrase of the new song into their familiar repertoire. We are working with acousticians, Michael Noad in Australia and Ellen Garland at Oregon State University to analyze the acoustic data collected across the region. It appears that certain phrases of the whale song are passed from West to East over subsequent years. We (The South Pacific Whale Research Consortium) have published a paper in SCIENCE titled:

Dynamic horizontal cultural transmission of humpback whale song.

Using sound analysis software we discovered that four new songs that had emerged in a population in Eastern Australia gradually spread to the East. Within 2 years of the new song being created, whales in French Polynesia were singing the same version. It was passed through the Cook Islands.

 

Photo Identification

Identification photographs (photo-IDs) are taken of the uniquely marked flukes of each whale encountered. Photo-IDs are acquired using digital still cameras equipped with telephoto and zoom lenses. Distinctive markings and behavior of whales are recorded with digital video cameras on the surface, and when necessary, underwater. Field data, including behavioral mode, individuals present, geographic position, date, time, etc. are collected with voice recorders. All images are digitized and data transcribed and subsequently integrated into databases. Photo-IDs and video stills are entered into a Humpback Photo-ID Catalog to monitor individual whales’ residence and patterns of association.

Humpbacks of the South Pacific often dive without fluking, which is problematic for getting photo-ID shots of their flukes. In response to this low fluke rate CCRC researchers photograph humpbacks underwater. High degrees of lateral pigmentation have been documented on a large percentage of the humpbacks observed in the Cook Islands, which makes underwater photo-identification a feasible alternative. Whenever possible underwater fluke shots are taken in addition to the more easily photographed lateral pigmentation shots.

 

Lateral Pigmentation

 

Genetics

Genetic material (DNA) encoded with individual whales’ attributes can be gleaned from miniscule samples of their skin. These are collected by two methods:

Skin sloughed off as whales dive, tail slap or breach, is collected whenever possible.

However, since skin is not sloughed predictably, skin and blubber samples are also collected with a small biopsy dart fired by a biopsy gun when necessary. The biopsy gun is registered with the Cook Islands Police Department. Samples of both types are logged with a unique access number, allowing cross-referencing of photo-ID and field data recorded simultaneously. Samples are preserved and stored according to established protocols for later analysis. DNA will be subsequently analyzed to determine the sex and relatedness of individuals. On a larger scale, samples are compared with those in existing databases to assess population identity of Cook Islands humpbacks and genetic diversity in humpbacks worldwide.

Toxicology

The long lives and high lipid content blubber of humpback whales predispose them to be severely affected by exposure to chronic contaminant burdens. Since little research of this nature has been conducted, portions of the biopsy samples collected for genetic analysis will be analyzed for toxic contaminant burden and biomarkers of likely risk to evaluate the toxicological status of the Cook Islands humpbacks. Other biopsies will be frozen and shipped with a CITES export permit to universities for analysis.

Surveys

Opportunistic and systematic surveys of humpback whales, beaked whales, dolphins and other marine mammals are conducted in the EEZ of the Cook Islands. The main goals of surveys are to:

1. Document population identity and photo-IDs of humpback whales and other cetaceans.

2. Document distribution of cetaceans within the area and compare this to the distribution of other species of marine life and oceanographic variables.

Beaked whalesBeaked Whales

Cook Islands Beaked Whale Survey

One quarter of the world’s 80 whale and dolphin species belong to the family of beaked whales (Ziphiidae), but because they favor deepwater habitat, study and knowledge of these cetaceans is in its infancy. Their conservation status, for instance, is completely unknown. From the types of fish and squid recovered from beaked whale stomachs, it is speculated that beaked whales may be the deepest and longest diving of all cetaceans. What little we know of beaked whales has largely come from stranded animals. Sightings of these elusive creatures at sea are extremely rare due to their long dive times and unobtrusive surfacing behavior.  I am currently looking at the group structure of beaked whales in the waters off the Cook Islands.

Beaked whale conservation – critical habitats

In order to protect beaked whales, we must determine their status. Elucidating their diving behavior will yield much insight into their habitat requirements and possibly their food preferences. Dive data will enable us to fine tune the pioneering assessment of habitat requirements of beaked whales in the Northern Bahamas and the Cook Islands.

Rather than being widespread across deep ocean basins, beaked whales are most frequently sighted over and at the edges of deep canyons, gullies, and walls, probably because their prey are associated with these features. As we learn more about beaked whale distribution, it appears that beaked whales rely on isolated critical habitats. To ensure the welfare of beaked whale populations around the world, these critical habitats must be identified and protected. A cooperative survey to identify beaked whale populations and their critical habitats around the world is in the making.

Beaked whales and acoustic pollution

Cetaceans, because they communicate and navigate almost entirely using sound, are sensitive to acoustic pollution. Beaked whales, because of their peculiar physiology and deep diving, are especially susceptible to damage resulting from acoustic pollution. Threatening sources of acoustic pollution in marine environments include widespread oil prospecting, ice-breaking, shipping noise, and military sonar.

On dozens of the recent occasions when more than five beaked whales have stranded in a limited area over a short period of time, naval sonar tests were being conducted. The most dramatic of these events occurred on 18-19 March, 2000, when 17 cetaceans, 13 of which were beaked whales, stranded in the northern Bahamas. CCRC researcher, Nan Hauser, assisted in collecting, documenting, and necropsying these whales. Several of the beaked whales’ heads were flown to Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital in Boston, USA, where Dr. Darlene Ketten (whale acoustic specialist) ran them through CT scanning machines. Ketten’s examination revealed unmistakable evidence of acoustic trauma.

Darlene Ketten visited the Cook Islands on July 27th 2009 to work with me on 2 beaked whale heads that were in my freezer in Takuvaine Valley. We analysed the heads and conducted necropsies. In October 2009, I sent ears, eyes, brains, & mandibular fat to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute to be CT scanned. The results will be on display at the Whale and Wildlife Centre.

Beaked Whales in the South Pacific

CCRC launched an opportunistic survey of beaked whales in the Cook Islands, South Pacific, in 1998, which coincided with the establishment of the Cook Islands Humpback Whale Survey. We plan to take a closer look at the prey available to beaked whales and sperm whales in the Cook Islands. I have recently visited with Charles Potter at the Natural History Museum for the Smithsonian Institute and we will start a beaked whale stable isotope research project looking at samples of skin and stomach contents of stranded beaked whales in the Cook Islands and Kiribati.

 

Raising Awareness

Increasing public awareness of whales and their conservation issues is essential for affecting informed decision-making about whale management. CCRC informs and engages in the Cook Islands, the United States, the Bahamas, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand by: offering first-hand practical experiences for interns and volunteers; supplementing school curricula with educational enrichment programs; providing outreach presentations at public gatherings; distributing scientific findings to decision-makers; and, contributing footage and photographs of whales, background information, and interviews for television, radio and printed broadcast. Moreover, CCRC will inform worldwide audiences through television documentaries, magazine articles, scientific journals, and several websites actively updated from the field.

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Joining forces

A-POD: Small cetacean survey in collaboration with OSU and Univ. of Auckland

A pattern of dolphins [aPOD] – the seascape genetics of island populations in protected and unprotected habitats of Oceania

Summary:

The islands of Oceania, extending from Melanesia in the west to far Polynesia in the east represent the world’s most extensive habitat for insular populations of dolphins. The limited information available from two species in this region, the spinner and bottlenose dolphins, suggests that each forms a metapopulation with relatively isolated local populations connected by long-term or episodic gene flow. To understand this ‘pattern of dolphins’, Scott Baker proposed a large-scale study of the seascape genetics of these two species in strategic locations throughout Oceania, working in collaboration with members of the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium. The study locations will be chosen to represent spatial scales ranging from 10s to 1,000s of kilometers and to reflect contrasting histories of exploitation and protection, including existing and proposed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The seascape model will take into account information on habitat preference and abundance of dolphins available from independent aerial surveys planned for a large portion of the region. From this synthesis, it will be possible to assess the adequacy of existing MPAs for preserving local communities of dolphins and to inform the design of new MPAs intended to help protect top predators.

Goals, activities and outcomes:

1. Coordinate among members of the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium, including 36 independent researchers active in 10 Pacific Island nations or territories, to collect genetic samples from island communities of dolphins (principally, spinner and bottlenose) in protected and unprotected habitat selected to represent spatial scales from 10s to 1,000s of kilometers;

2. Confirm species identity and describe the isolation or connectivity among dolphin communities and the influence of maternal fidelity and sex-biased dispersal using standard tests of differentiation and gene flow for mtDNA and nuclear (microsatellite) markers;

3. Describe the spatial ‘seascape’ of diversity and gene flow using models of isolation by distance and incorporating information on habitat preference and abundance from independent aerial surveys;

4. Relate results of seascape analyses to the scale and proximity of existing or proposed MPAs to assess their adequacy to protect the functional role of dolphins as top predators;

5. Identify centers of abundance and diversity of dolphins in Oceania for the purposes of proposing new MPAs.

6. Contribute to local capacity building through training of fisheries and conservation officers in Pacific Island nations and policy outcomes through memoranda of understanding between South Pacific Whale Research Consortium, the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).

 

South Pacific Whale Research Consortium

The South Pacific Whale Research Consortium met in Auckland for its eleventh annual meeting in February last year. We celebrated 11 years of research together. Catalogues of fluke photographs (representing over 1800 individuals from Oceania alone) were compared to describe regional return and interchange.  Some degree of migratory interchange has been established between adjacent regions of Oceania (the presumed wintering grounds of IWC management Area V and Area VI humpbacks).  Non-systematic surveys and unpublished capture-recapture estimates based on photo-identification indicate that the density of whales remains low throughout the wintering grounds of Oceania and the New Zealand migratory corridor.  Capture-recapture estimates of abundance for New Caledonia based on photo-identification and DNA profiling (genotyping) gave comparable results, indicating a small and possibly closed population of whales on this wintering ground.  Genetic analyses are underway for sloughed skin and biopsy samples collected throughout the Oceania region. We have found genotype matches between the Cook Islands and other island nations across Oceania. The SPWRC meeting was held in conjunction with a whale meeting in Chile this past March.

Common species seen in the Cook Islands:

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)
Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis)
Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus)
Dwarf minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) or
Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis)
Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus)
Killer whale (Orcinus orca)
Short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus)
Peale’s dolphin (Lagenorhynchus australis)
Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris)
Blainsville’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris)
Spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris)
Striped dolphin (Stenella attenuata)
Fraser’s dolphin (Lagenodelphis hosei)
Melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra)
Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus)

*Page in progress. Check back for updates soon!

Projects

Pacific Oceanscape

Page in progress, more to come soon!

Publications

Cook Islands Whale Sanctuary

Neat Document-

Population paper

Population structure of South Pacific humpback whales and the origin of the eastern Polynesian breeding grounds

Diversity paper

Mixed Stock Analysis

Neat Document-

Neat Document-

Neat Document-

Movements of individual humpback whales

Neat Document-

Abundance paper

Neat Document-

Neat Document-

Neat Document-

Neat Document-

Neat Document-

Movement paper

Neat Document-

Neat Document-

Film

Images

All NanRarotongaWhale & Wildlife CentreWhales
Harpoon Display

Harpoon DisplayWhale & Wildlife Centre

Breach

BreachWhales

Photo-ID

Photo-IDNan

The Centre in Rarotonga

The Centre in RarotongaWhale & Wildlife Centre

Rarotonga

RarotongaRarotonga

Painting The Centre

Painting The CentreWhale & Wildlife Centre

Family

FamilyNan

Working In The Office

Working In The OfficeNan

Breaching

Breaching Whales

Breach

BreachWhales

Sea Turtle Display

Sea Turtle DisplayWhale & Wildlife Centre

Breach

BreachWhales

Fluke

FlukeRarotonga

Nan With Her Daughter Ali

Nan With Her Daughter AliNan

Lecturing

LecturingNan

Nan And Christine

Nan And Christine Nan

Artwork

ArtworkWhale & Wildlife Centre

Scuba gear

Scuba gearWhale & Wildlife Centre

At The Office

At The OfficeNan

Necropsy

NecropsyNan

Driving The Boat

Driving The BoatNan

Nan At The Centre

Nan At The CentreNan, Whale & Wildlife Centre

Display

DisplayWhale & Wildlife Centre

Group

GroupNan

Out On The Water

Out On The WaterNan

Research

ResearchNan, Whales

Fluke

FlukeWhales

Underwater

UnderwaterNan

Fluke

FlukeWhales

Education

EducationNan, Whale & Wildlife Centre

Education At The Centre

Education At The CentreNan, Whale & Wildlife Centre

Calf Breaching

Calf BreachingWhales

Humpback Underwater

Humpback UnderwaterWhales

Blog

Follow our satellite tagging process through the blog of team member Travis Horton!

http://megaptera14.blogspot.co.nz/

We are back on 60 Minutes: Return of the Humpback

Scott Pelley received so much positive feedback from Return of the Humpback featuring Nan Hauser that 60 Minutes is replaying it this Sunday, Aug 24 at 7pm ET/PT!!! Thank you everyone for tuning in!!

“60 Minutes” travels to the South Pacific on the trail of the humpback whale. Watch Scott Pelley’s report on Sunday, Aug. 24 at 7 p.m. ET/PT

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/preview-return-of-the-humpback-2/

Painting the Marine Park Information Centre (Marae Moana)

Painted! The Whale Research team spent some days painting a whale on the marine park information centre wall. Looking forward to the official opening on August 25!

OUR AMAZING PHOTOS TAKEN WITH GO PROS AND DRONE CAMERA

Whale Research crew took to the water and spent the morning and afternoon with a large female and a young male. VIDEO coming soon! The young male had been spotted a few days earlier by himself and looked very happy to have someone to play with. It was the first time using the drone camera from Varo Media and the pictures and videos came out awesome! All photos were taken with GoPro and DJI Global - looking forward to sharing more awesome photos and videos!

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Bitter-sweet start to whale season

Whale season has officially kicked off in the Cook Islands and around six humpbacks have already shown up over the past week.

The excitement has been somewhat dampened for the Cook Islands Whale Research team, which recently had about $7000 worth of gear stolen.

Well-known researcher Nan Hauser, who heads up the team, said two juvenile humpback whales were spotted near Avana Harbour last Thursday and one of them was seen swimming between Super Brown store and Panama the next day.

“They’re hanging around, following boats and being friendly,” Hauser said,

The official whale season runs from July to October and Hauser assembles a team every year to study the creatures, which appear in large numbers during the period.

Sadly, the team’s efforts to get out and spot the whales in the first week have been hampered.

“The project is having a hard time getting off its feet this year,” Hauser said.

The team has been robbed of four car batteries and two marine batteries, worth more than $1000 in total, and $6000 worth of camera gear.

The gear was stolen from a secure locked area and Hauser said the robbery is an insult for her team of volunteers.

“We work morning and night to make this project happen and yet we got robbed. It’s discouraging. We have 10 people on this team that work for absolutely no pay.”

She called for anyone with information about the theft to contact police on 22499, or Crime Stoppers on 080022200.

Meanwhile, a group of passengers onboard Reef Sub were elated after spending about an hour with a young adult humpback in shallow water off Trader Jacks on Tuesday morning.

The whale spent most of its time sitting on the sand but came up a few times to inspect the boat.

Ernst Wilche, one of 13 passengers onboard Reef Sub, said being up close to the whale was a “fantastic experience” for him, his wife and two children from Denmark.

“It was amazing. It was lying there for about half an hour and came up twice to breathe.”

Hauser said she was worried the whale may have been dying because it was spending so much time motionless on the sea floor.

“And then it occurred to me that she’s probably in labour. I think she was resting in between contractions.”

Hauser said whales can be in labour for days.

As more whales start to arrive in the coming weeks, head down to Avatiu Wharf, Blackrock, Paradise Inn (Tupapa) or Avana point for the best viewing points.

Thursday July 10, 2014 Written by  Published in Local

source: http://www.cookislandsnews.com/national/local/item/47534-bitter-sweet-start-to-whale-season?utm_content=bufferbc81a&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Back in Rarotonga!

We are excited to announce that the rest of the whale research team has arrived back on the island and we are eager to begin the humpback whale field season. Although there were a few bumps in the road upon arrival, including stolen gear and some mismatched tires, we will soon be back out on the water! During our first week we were able to organize gear, prepare the inflatable boat, and on July 1st we saw our first juvenile humpback whale off of Avana Pass. It is going to be a great season!
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South Pacific Whale Research Consortium

Nan Hauser just returned from the 2014 South Pacific Whale Research Consortium meeting in Auckland, New Zealand. This year was our 15th meeting! It is always a great reminder of how well we all collaborate as scientists and conservationists … and on a teeny tiny budget! Thank goodness we all are such good friends and passionate about protecting whales and dolphins. The science we conduct is serious and cutting edge, leading to a better understanding of cetaceans across Oceania.

My Hero International Film Festival

Peter Stonier of Conservation International did a field spotlight short film on the work we do in the Cook Islands has been nominated by the My Hero International Film Festival! Please click the link below and vote for our project. This is a great opportunity to continue spreading the word about our work. The winner will have their film aired at The USC School of Cinematic Arts. Voting is open until November 18th.

http://www.myhero.com/go/films/publicvote.asp

60 Minutes Video!

Return of the humpbacks

It’s finally here check out both videos! Big thanks to everyone that made this possible.

60 Minutes travels to the South Pacific on the trail of the humpback whale. Scott Pelley reports.

Also here is the extra web piece that was done.

 

SIXTY MINUTES AIRS TONIGHT October 20th at 7pm (after the football game!)

Please watch Scott Pelley with Nan Hauser and the whales in Rarotonga! It airs tonight!!

If you would like more information about Nan Hauser, please go to www.whaleresearch.org

or Facebook fan page “Whale Research”.

Thank you for your support to the whales!!!!!!!!

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