TDI supports dolphin and whale research by actively conducting its own fieldwork, by participating in large-scale and small-scale collaborations, and by providing funding in the form of scholarships to support student research. TDI researchers have carried out ground-breaking laboratory studies of dolphin sensory perception, cognition, and language abilities; conducted or collaborated in field studies of the behavior and biology of spinner dolphins, spotted dolphins and bottlenose dolphins; and developed one of the longest ongoing studies of humpback whales in the world. Based on this work, TDI researchers have produced over 160 scientific journal articles, book chapters, reports, theses, and dissertations on whales and dolphins.
Education and Outreach
Groundbreaking discoveries by TDI researchers have been featured widely in the media and have educated millions of viewers about dolphins and whales. Media coverage includes: two IMAX films; articles in magazines such as National Geographic, National Wildlife, TIME and Discover; and television documentaries featured on channels such as BBC, PBS, and National Geographic. Over the years, TDI staff have also provided diverse educational programs including school outreach programs, high school apprenticeship programs, college- and post-college internship programs, and short-term participant programs that brought thousands of individuals from across the world to Hawaii to learn about dolphins and whales, enhancing their knowledge and skills, and encouraging them to become stewards of the marine environment.
Conservation of marine mammals has always been a cornerstone of TDI. Both Dr. Herman and Dr. Pack served on the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council, with Dr. Herman serving as Conservation Chair and Dr. Pack serving as Research Chair and most recently as Council Chair (2011-2016). TDI Advisor and Board Member Elia Herman served as State of Hawaii Co-Manager of the Sanctuary from 2011-2017. In the field, TDI researchers documented the frequency with which individual spinner dolphins during resting periods encountered human swimmers. Also, they conducted studies on vessel impacts to humpback whales in Alaska, helped develop recommendations to reduce vessel strikes of whales in Alaska and Hawaii, worked to develop a shore-based spotter alert system to help avoid vessel collisions with whales, and produced a series of reports on potential threats to humpback whales in Hawaiian waters.
TDI’s current efforts include the following:
- Research on life histories and long-term associations of humpback whales and other cetacean species in Southeast Alaskan waters
- Research on song, body size and hormone levels in individual male humpback whale singers in collaboration with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (HIHWNMS) and University of Alaska Fairbanks
- Research on diurnal variations in habitat use in conjunction with vocal production in humpback whale male-female pairs and other social groups using acoustic-recording suction cup tags in collaboration with the HIHWNMS.
- Research on the diurnal and seasonal use of specific habitats of Hawaiian spinner dolphins found off of Hilo, Hawaii in collaboration with Ocean-wide Science Institute
- Research on wild Atlantic spotted and bottlenose dolphins in the Bahamas in collaboration with the Wild Dolphin Project.
- Support for the Louis M. Herman Research Scholarship to advance the work of graduate student research on dolphins and whales.
- Migration of TDI’s archival catalog of humpback whale tail fluke images to an automated matching program and association database.