VFC Splash Panel

Introducing the conference speakers

At this year's World Whale Conference, we have some fantastic speakers lined up for you. For you to get to know them a little better check out, each of their bio's below.

Keynote Speakers:

Dr Trish Franklin

Dr Franklin's research focus is the behaviour and social organisation of humpback whales. She is also President of The Oceania Project and an Adjunct Fellow at the Marine Ecology Research Centre, Southern Cross University. Trish has twenty-five years experience studying the behaviour and social organisation of Humpback whales. Her research has focussed on individual and group social behaviour of migrating humpback whales and the social organisation and temporal segregation of classes of humpback whales during the southern migration in Hervey Bay off the southeast coast of Queensland. Her work is making a direct contribution to the management and conservation of the eastern Australian humpback whales.





Dr Wally Franklin

Dr Franklin's research focus is the population dynamics and migratory interchange of the humpback whales in Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia. He is also a Director of The Oceania Project and an Adjunct Fellow at  the Marine Ecology Research Centre, Southern Cross University. His research provided the first evidence that the humpback whales utilising Hervey Bay may be a sub-group of the eastern Australian (E1) humpback whale population and that the stopover may contribute to high rates of increase in abundance observed in Hervey Bay compared to other populations. Humpback whales from Hervey Bay are shown to use complex migratory pathways to and from Antarctic feeding areas, are involved in low levels of migratory interchange with nearby populations and, his research provided the first evidence that eastern Australian humpbacks use the southern waters of New Zealand en-route to and from Antarctic feeding areas. His work is making a direct contribution to the management and conservation of the eastern Australian humpback whales.

Professor Mark Orams

Professor Mark Orams is currently Head of Discipline, Tourism, Leisure and Event Management and member of the Sustainability Research Centre at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. He also holds a position at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand as Associate Director of the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute and the Centre for Applied Ecology of New Zealand. He is the founding co-chair of the International Coastal and Marine Tourism Society and serves on the editorial board for the academic journals Tourism in Marine Environments and the Coastal Management Journal. In addition, he is a member of the Sustainability Commission for World Sailing and a founding member of the Society for Surfing Academics. An active “water-man”, Marko as he is known, is a surfer, multiple world champion and around the world sailor, a diver, stand-up-paddle board racer and ocean dweller. He lives onboard his 40 foot catamaran “Waiake II” with his wife Renee, and their chocolate labrador “Moana”.

Paul H.Forestell, PhD

Paul has a PhD in comparative psychology from the University of Hawaii. His research has focused on cognitive capabilities of dolphins, social and migratory patterns of humpback whales, and educational programs in marine settings. Paul is internationally recognised for developing naturalist training programs and promoting low impact whale and dolphin watching expeditions, and has conducted operator training workshops in Hawaii, Japan, Australia, Ecuador and Costa Rica. He has been affiliated with the Pacific Whale Foundation since 1981, and has published multiple books, book chapters, journal articles, contract reports, and spoken presentations. In addition to his work with Pacific Whale Foundation, Paul served as a faculty member and university administrator between 1996 and 2018.

Other Speakers:


Aeon Bashir

Aeon Bashir is the founder of “Aeon for Ocean”. He is an Ocean Enthusiast and 3rd grader from Eden Prairie, Minnesota. His love for oceans began since he was very little especially with whales and dolphins. He noticed that there was lack for knowledge about oceans and marine life inland and felt compelled to share his learning with his friends and family. At age seven, he founded Aeon for Ocean, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit kids-based ocean conservation organisation in Minnesota. He started this initiative to inspire kids in Minnesota with a love for the ocean and to teach them about marine life and ocean conservation. Aeon hopes not only to teach landlocked kids about the ocean, but to help them understand how their actions here in Minnesota impact environment, the larger watershed and eventually the oceans themselves. He hopes other kids will join him in this journey as Krill2Whale ambassadors and this initiative will also create a platform for kids inland to understand the amazing opportunities in marine science and ocean exploration. Aeon Bashir was invited speaker at EarthXOcean Conference 2019 at Dallas, TX Apr 2019. Aeon Bashir is a special guest speaker at "Captivity: A Multidisciplinary Approach" conference at Madison, WI held Mar 2018. He was also invited speaker at 2018 American Cetacean Society International conference at Newport Beach, CA.   Aeon Bashir is proud recipient of outstanding achievement recognition from the United States - Environmental Protection Agency for his innovative educational approach and efforts in raising awareness among kids about ocean conservation.

Dr Alastair Birtles

Dr Alastair Birtles is Associate Professor (Adjunct) in Marine Biology in the College of Science at James Cook University, where he has worked for most of the last 45 years.    He grew up in the UK, studied Zoology at Oxford University and obtained a PhD in Marine Biology at James Cook University.  He has nearly fifty years of experience in tropical research and teaching After working as a conservation officer with QPWS, he spent over 25 years teaching & researching on ecotourism, environmental management, integrated coastal zone management and ecologically sustainable tourism.  He is leader of the nearly 30-year Minke Whale Project (conducting 24 years of field studies since 1996) and has worked on many other marine wildlife tourism projects (featuring sharks, whales, dolphins, turtles, dugongs, groupers and scuba diving); also tourism in protected areas (especially World Heritage Wet Tropics Rainforest and the GBR), visitor management, interpretation and Aboriginal tourism – all aimed at enhancing tourist experiences, minimising impacts and developing more ecologically sustainable management practices.     As the leader of the Minke Whale Project at James Cook University, Dr Birtles is studying the biology and behaviour of dwarf minke whales and the dynamics of the interactions between the whales and the swim-with whales tourism industry to develop a framework for managing these interactions sustainably. Outcomes of the project have included the development of a Code of Practice for swim-with whales activities, interpretative material for the industry, as well as peer-reviewed publications, book chapters and conference presentations.  These have contributed greatly to (a) sustainable management of the swim with dwarf minke whales tourism industry in the northern Great Barrier Reef, (b) improving our knowledge about the biology (e.g. population structure and size, life history stages, behaviour) of dwarf minke whales and (c) the experience of swim-with whales participants.

Ted Cheeseman

Ted grew up in California, son of a naturalist and zoology professor couple whose shared mission in life was to educate the public about wildlife. Ted began going to sea (and getting seasick) at a very young age, and first worked as expedition staff in Antarctica in 1994. Ted is currently a PhD student building a global catalog of individual humpback whales, developer of the marine mammal research collaboration and citizen science platform www.happywhale.com, and owner of Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris (www.cheesemans.com).



Sergio Cipolotti

Biologist and Master in Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation. For over 18 years he has  been devoloping the whale-watching tourism along the coast of Bahia with the Humpback Whale Institute, building capacity for operators and staff, coordinating the scientific research on board the whale-watching vessels and acting in national and international marine conservation initiatives.

Roberta Dixon-Valk

Roberta Dixon-Valk, Co-founder Take 3  Sea-ish and fish-driven, Roberta Dixon-Valk has had a lifetime love affair with our oceans and estuaries. Roberta is a marine ecologist/conservationist who has spent over 30 years working to look after the health of our oceans and all the plants and animals that call it home.– most recently from plastic pollution  She is Head of Programs and a Co-founder of Take 3. 





Richard W Dolan

Richard W Dolan is a scientific illustrator who creates interactive whale models for whale watch companies on Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Focused on the unique patterns of Humpback whales, Richard has created over 100 illustrations and sculptures of animals encountered during his excursions.  Nearly all of his artwork is donated to whale watch companies and institutions in the pursuit of ocean literacy and conservation.  His ongoing project, Tails of Stellwagen, can be followed on Instagram.

Richard W Dolan is a field naturalist for the New England Aquarium Whale Watch, and has combined art and education on Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary since 2014.  He has illustrated over 100 Humpback whale fluke patterns and carves interactive models for educational purposes. Richard has collaborated in White shark research with Marine Dynamics and Fins Attached, and currently illustrates ventral patterns of sharks for the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. The artist's education project, Tails of Stellwagen, is the two-time recipient of the Carole A. Carlson Whale Watch Naturalist Award, bestowed by Whale and Dolphin Conservation.  In his spare time the artist visits the collections of Harvard University and other institutions to illustrate specimens.

Glenn Edney

Glenn Edney is an Ocean ecologist, writer, photographer, sailor and professional diver. He has been exploring the Ocean and interacting with Ocean life for more than 30 years. In 1990 he was appointed as a marine mammal protection officer with the New Zealand Department of Conservation, which lead to him traveling to the Kingdom of Tonga where he had his first underwater encounter with humpback whales. In 2005 he set up the first licensed whale watching and swimming operation in the Ha’apai Islands in Tonga. Hundreds of hours logged observing, photographing and interacting with the whales culminated in the publication of “Humpback Whales of the South West Pacific” in 2010.  In 2012 he completed an MSc in Holistic Science from Schumacher College and Plymouth University. His research is focused on understanding the Ocean as a living system and the role she plays as the primary life support system for our planet. He has a strong interest in bringing together traditional indigenous Ocean knowledge and modern scientific ecological understanding, which has informed the development of a community based, qualitative monitoring programme. He has contributed to several papers on Community based marine ecosystem monitoring and management   In 2016 he published “The Ocean Is Alive: Re-visioning our relationship with the Living Ocean”. In addition he has published a field guide to the Poor Knights marine Reserve in New Zealand and has contributed to several other books on marine life. His articles and photographs have appeared numerous Ocean related magazines.  Together with his wife Janey they have founded Te Wairua O Te Moananui – Ocean Spirit Charitable Trust, with the aim of fostering a deeper and more harmonious relationship with the living Ocean. They live on the north east coast of New Zealand, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 

Lloyd Edwards

Lloyd started the Baywatch Marine Conservation Project in 1992, which is the oldest privately funded project of its kind in Africa. The most important aims are education, marine research, tree rehabilitation projects, assisting in marine law enforcement and anti-marine pollution projects. In 1997 Lloyd started Raggy Charters marine cruises in order to raise funds for the Baywatch Project. 

Raggy Charters currently holds the only whale and dolphin watching permit for Algoa Bay. He also specialises in taking out film crews (like the BBC) into Algoa Bay. In the last five years Raggy Charters has won the Lilizela Tourism Awards for the best marine, ocean and beach experience in South Africa 3 times. He has written a book on Algoa Bay and contributed to others as well as writing many articles and even two scientific papers. Lloyd is chairman of the Tree Society and won a national award for his rehabilitation of wetlands. He also won the BirdLife South Africa Owl Award in recognition of his contribution in helping to conserve the endangered African Penguin. 

His greatest achievement, together with his wife through her research, was to have played a leading role in having a large section of Algoa Bay proclaimed as a Marine Protected Area. This became a reality in 2018. Lloyd was elected as the Africa Representative for the WCA in 2015. He launched Algoa Bay as the Bottlenose Dolphin Capital of the World in 2016 and organised the first Port Elizabeth Dolphin Festival in 2018.

Yasmine M. Elmahdy

Yasmine M. Elmahdy is a PhD candidate at Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand. Her current research focuses on sustainable management of marine mammal tourism in New Zealand. Her research interests lie in the areas of marine tourism, ecotourism, wildlife tourism, adventure tourism, and extreme and adventure sports. Her other research interests include gender issues in tourism and sport, and qualitative approaches to research.



Lorenzo Fiori

I am a marine biologist and I obtained my MSc degree at Padua State University, Italy, investigating toxoplasmosis occurrence among cetaceans in the Mediterranean Sea. After my Bachelor & Honours in Industrial Biotechnology, I decided to concentrate my studies on the conservation and management of cetaceans. I gained experience in cetacean photo-identification, behaviour and post-mortem molecular and immunohistochemical investigation. Currently my research interests range from cetacean interaction with tourism activities, to the use of small UAVs as a tool for marine mammal research. In particular, my PhD study focuses on the behaviour of humpback whales during vessel approaches and in-water human interactions. I am also involved in the investigation of behavioural responses of bottlenose dolphins to small UAVs. I hold a CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Australia) Remote Pilot Certificate and my goal is to develop best practices for the use of Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) waterproof UAVs for cetacean behaviour surveys.

Emily A. Gregory

Emily is a graduate of first class Science Honours at the University of the Sunshine Coast. New technologies and the opportunity to engage with the Sunshine Coast swim-with whale tourism industry assisted Emily to complete research on consumer-grade drones for monitoring Sunshine Coast’s humpback whales in 2018. A few of her previous research ventures have included assisting research on the ecology and behaviour of humpbacks in Caimito, Ecuador in 2016 and the swim-with whale tourism industry in Vava’u, Tonga in 2017. Emily will participate in vital research of the declining humpback population in Baranof Island, Alaska in 2019. Emily also published her findings on the thermal ecology of ghost crabs (doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2018.01.023) and is committed to contributing to the field of marine ecology and conservation. The charisma and curiosity of humpbacks have inspired her conservation efforts. She strives to further her knowledge on understanding the incredible biodiversity of the planet, and deciphering the ecological interactions that occur within it, harnessing this vital information to understand our inextricable connection to the ocean, as well as improving future conservation efforts of marine ecosystems. She strongly acknowledges her responsibility in learning of, sharing and actively contributing to conserving the oceans natural resources, evident in her scientific contributions and voluntary community involvement in local organisations, TurtleCare and community lecture series sharing hers and others local coastal and marine research.


Dr Liz Hawkins

Dr. Hawkins is the Founding Director and Executive Officer of Dolphin Research Australia, charitable organization dedicated to the protection and conservation of the marine environment.  Her research focuses on the behavioural ecology of cetaceans including habitat selection, population health & trends, communication and social systems and developing best-practice management solutions.  Her work has been published in a number of scientific journals and international conferences. Dr. Hawkins has also developed and delivered numerous education programs and workshops for community, government agencies and businesses to promote environmental awareness and conservation management of marine and coastal areas. 

Clint Hempsall

My name is Clint Hempsall. I am a professional cinematographer specialising in underwater documentary and adventure television series projects. My industry credits include over 50 documentaries and 800 television episodes. I have been extremely fortunate to have my work recognised with an Emmy Award and 16 ACS Awards for cinematography.    My background includes a career as a professional diver with over 8000 dives including work as a commercial diver, managing a Great Barrier Reef dive resort for 8 years, and over 40 years of underwater photography. During these adventures I have witnessed many truly extraordinary interactions between sea creatures and people. This has been one of the great joys of my life.

Suzanne Hillcoat

Suzanne Hillcoat is currently in the third year of her PhD candidature with the Minke Whale Project at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. Her thesis focuses on dwarf minke whale population structure, growth rates, and behavioural responses to human interactions in the Great Barrier Reef. She completed her Master’s degree in Marine Biology & Ecology at James Cook University in 2015, during which her research focused on whale shark ecology and tourism in Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, and completed her Bachelor’s degree in Zoology at the University of Guelph in Canada.   Suzanne is also interested in the biological applications of new technology. She is currently working on a joint project between the Minke Whale Project and JCU’s eResearch Centre which is investigating the use of artificial neural networks to automate the photo-identification process for dwarf minke whales. The team published a paper on this research in 2018 in the Journal of Geoscience and Environment Protection, outlining the successful preliminary results.   Suzanne has just completed her fourth field season with the Minke Whale Project. During that time she has spent hundreds of hours in the water with dwarf minke whales recording sightings, behaviour, and making measurements of the whales. She works closely with the swim-with dwarf minke whales tourism industry in Cairns and Port Douglas and finds one of the most rewarding parts of her work communicating her research to the public and inspiring conservation action.

Ludovic Hoarau

Ludovic Hoarau is a marine biologist working on coral reef, marine mammal and sea turtle ecology and conservation. After a master research in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation in Europe, he came back to Réunion Island where he was born and raised. He has conducted various projects on marine biodiversity and conservation in Réunion island in studying the health of coral reefs and the species that inhabit these ecosystems. Since three years, he has focused his efforts on sea turtle and marine mammal conservation. He is now working for a NGO CEDTM and is a member of the a team “Quietude” that was established in order to protect both cetaceans and sea turtles, and to encourage a responsible and sustainable whale-watching in Réunion Island. As a scientific diver he is often on the field underwater, is always fascinated by the life in the oceans and dedicates his entire life for the protection of the oceans.

Sophie Lewis

Sophie is the Responsible Whale Watching Partner Project Manager at the World Cetacean Alliance. Sophie works with the WCA’s growing number of Responsible Whale Watching Partners, developing relationships to encourage engagement, collaboration and communication on a variety of issues relating to responsible cetacean tourism and beyond. She also works on promoting WCA Partners and responsible cetacean tourism to a wider audience, and sits on the Blue Flag International Jury, providing advice and guidance relating to the Blue Flag Sustainable Boating Tourism Operator accreditation. In 2018, Sophie authored WCAs Global Best Practice Guidance for Responsible Whale and Dolphin Watching. Formed in partnership with ClubMed, this manual now forms the bedrock for WCAs global certification programme for responsible whale watching. Sophie holds a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and a Master of Science in climate change and has previously worked as Data and Media Analyst for The Indonesian Manta Project in Bali. She is passionate about the collaboration between science, conservation and tourism.


Mette Lubczyk

German born Mette Lubczyk, is a certified Senior Whale Swim Guide in Tonga who has worked closely with humpback whales and has taken hundreds of people on some of the most memorable experiences of their lives.  Since childhood, her love of the ocean developed into a profound desire to protect it. By age eleven, Mette co-founded a ‘green team’ which went by the name of  ‘Defenders Of The Sea’ — a group which garnered the support of Greenpeace and acted to advise and inform the public on the mistreatment and unnaturalness of confined dolphins and whales in theme parks.    Her aspirations to work with whales eventually led her to Tonga in 2014. Since then, she has introduced nearly 3,000 people to the wonders of swimming with humpback whales, spent hundreds of hours above and in-water with these animals and gained knowledge of their lives and personalities in a deeply personal and connected way.    Mette strongly believes in the power of wildlife tourism when run respectfully and sustainably. Sensible whale interactions, that puts the whale’s well-being first, combined with knowledge-sharing raises awareness and open peoples’ minds and hearts. It’s a life changing experience, which has the potential to impact positively on tourism as well as lifestyle choices back home. Whale encounters have the power to encourage people to protect our oceans and wilderness, making the world a better place.

Dr Michael Lück

Dr Michael Lück is a professor in the School of Hospitality and Tourism, and associate director for the coastal and marine tourism research programme at the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute, both at Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand.  He is founding co-chair of the International Coastal & Marine Tourism Society (ICMTS). Michael has more than 10 years work experience in the tourism industry and his research interests include (marine) wildlife tourism, the cruise industry, ecotourism, interpretation and education on wildlife tours, the impacts of tourism, and aviation. He has published in a number of international journals, is founding editor-in-chief of the academic journal Tourism in Marine Environments,  Associate Editor of the Journal of Ecotourism and Human Dimensions of Wildlife, and editorial board member of Marine Policy and Frontiers. Michael has edited or co-edited ten volumes on ecotourism, marine and polar tourism, events and low cost airlines, as well as the Encyclopedia of Tourism and Recreation in Marine Environments (CABI), and co-authored the introductory text Tourism (CABI).

María Laura Marcías

My name is Maria Laura Marcias, I am a biologist and a science communicator from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I am currently doing my master in Marine Science at Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS) in Mexico. My interests include nature, the conservation of oceans, scientific diving, eco-tourism labeling, environmental education and science communication. I wish to understand if nature-based experiences can change people’s mind and which factors help enhance that change. I wish to know if communication strategies can help increase the experience and the amount of change that encourages them to act pro-environmentally. We need to understand human needs, interests, values, etc to be able to attack the conservation problem in an integrated way.

Jan-Olaf Meynecke

Olaf has graduated in Environmental Sciences at the University of Lueneburg, Germany and then co-ordinated scientific panel meetings for the European Food Safety Authority. He started his PhD at Griffith University on the relationship between fish harvest and environmental drivers. During his research he developed advanced short and long term tagging methods. After completion of his PhD he continued his research in Marine Science with the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management on the Gold Coast. He is now working on an international research project on the impacts of climate change on whales and also studies the health of humpback whales in south-east Queensland using drones. Olaf is CEO and co-founder of Humpbacks & High-Rises Inc a not for profit research organisation dedicated to urban marine mammal research and protection.  

Chantal D. Pagel

Chantal Pagel is a PhD candidate at Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand, working on a research project dealing with risk management and the influence of social media in touristic in-water interactions with marine wildlife. She holds a B.Sc. in Environmental Sciences from Carl-von-Ossietzky University in Oldenburg, Germany, as well as a double degree (M.Sc. /M.I.N.C.) in International Nature Conservation from Georg-August University in Goettingen, Germany and Lincoln University, New Zealand.   She has gained valuable insights in several conservation organisations, such as Germany-based Yaqu Pacha, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in Hamburg, Germany, the Wildlife Conservation Society Fiji Program as well as The Convention on Migratory Species (UNEP/CMS) ASCOBANS Secretariat in Bonn, Germany. The working experience has shaped her interest in marine wildlife tourism which she has selected as her main area of research in 2010.  Specifically, Chantal looks at human/wildlife interactions in marine environments, being discussed in her Master thesis about swim encounters with Norwegian killer whales and correlated interactive behaviours addressed towards divers and snorkelers.  With her passion for marine wildlife tourism research and the progress in her professional career as a scientist, she decided to create a topical platform on different encounters with various types of marine fauna. It is her concern to inform and educate marine wildlife enthusiasts about codes of conduct, responsible behaviour and best practice tour providers, to spread the word and to make a change. This is communicated in personal artwork combining watercolours and informative graphic design, distributed on her website and social media.  In 2018 she joined WCA as an organisational partner and integrated herself as a member of the review panel for the responsible whale-watching certification programme. 

Suzanne Rogers

Suzanne worked in science publishing for 10 years - initially as a science journalist and later as the Managing Editor of several review journals. In her spare time she re-qualified in animal behaviour and welfare, gained extensive practical experience with several animal welfare organisations, worked as an animal behaviour consultant and founded Learning About Animals, which hosts educational events.     In 2007 she became the Programmes Manager of the Companion Animal Unit at WSPA (now World Animal Protection) managing dog population and working equine programmes worldwide. A key part of this role was to develop and test participatory methodologies – working within communities to lead to a change in the way people manage and care for their animals. Suzanne led the move away from a heavy focus on mobile clinics towards prevention through participatory approaches and community engagement. To reflect the broad applicability of the approach to other species she became the Technical Advisor for Human Behaviour Change Programmes and worked on several projects including providing alternative livelihoods for the owners of dancing bears. Since 2011, Suzanne has worked as an international consultant for animal welfare and human behaviour change, working with many key animal organisations on issues including changing the behaviour of animal handlers in slaughter houses, working with elephant mahouts to improve animal welfare and phase out tourist elephant riding, and embedding pro-welfare practices in laboratory animals to name just a few. In 2016 she co-founded Human Behaviour Change for Animals CIC (www.hbcforanimals.com - [email protected]). 


Kasey Ryan

Kasey Ryan is a PhD student at the University of Manitoba, working with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to study a threatened beluga whale population in Cumberland Sound, Nunavut, Canada. Her research focuses on analysing the diving and migrations of the population using satellite tag data collected over 10 years. She is also creating a photographic identification catalog of the population using drone photographs taken annually since 2017, a project which will continue to be used in the future to estimate population abundance and life-history characteristics like the calving rate of the population. Kasey has a master’s degree in marine biology from Bangor University, Wales, which involved examining the relationship between acoustic signals and behaviours in the Cook Inlet, Alaska, beluga whale population.

Stéphanie Sorby

I am a Phd Candidate in public international and environmental law. The aim of my subject thesis is to identify how to protect humpback whales in the South-west Indian Ocean during their migration through the "whale route" project. A cooperation between States and territories of the region is essential for a consistent protection of whales,  that is why this project has emerged. To achieve this project, spatial protection like marine protected areas but also sector-based protection measures could be implemented to mitigate ship strikes, bycatch, entanglement and also whale-watching abuse as tourists are increasingly present in the area.  I thus intend to identify the best appropriate tools to protect whales during their journey in this part of the world where they are exposed to multiple anthropic threats.

Stephanie Stack

Stephanie is the Chief Biologist for Pacific Whale Foundation, a multi-national non-profit research, education, and conservation organization. Stephanie’s research focus is on assessing marine mammal health and how environmental and human activities might influence such.  She is currently studying the effects of commercial swim-with programs on humpback whales in Hervey Bay and spinner dolphins in Hawaii, as well as using unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to assess body condition of endangered false killer whales in Hawaii. Stephanie is an invited member of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission, a member of the Society for Marine Mammalogy, a member of the Australian Citizen Science Association, and a first responder for NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding and Large Whale Entanglement Response teams.

Nick Stewart

Nick Stewart is World Animal Protection’s Global Head of Campaign on captive wildlife tourism. He currently heading up the work on dolphins, advocating for the public and travel industry’s rejection of captive dolphin experiences and building support for responsible alternatives and solutions to protect current and future generations of animals. He previously led the campaign team’s captive elephant work for which World Animal Protection was awarded Gold in the Best for Wildlife category at the 2018 World Responsible Tourism Awards.

Nick has a professional background in responsible tourism management, having worked for adventure tour operators in the corporate responsibility team as well as in the sustainable tourism departments of national park authorities in the UK before moving into wildlife protection campaigning. He has a BSc in Environmental Science, a Postgraduate Diploma in Responsible Tourism Management and is a qualified commercial diver.


Suzie Teerlink

Suzie has long been fascinated by the critical role that on-the-water educators play in sharing conservation messages with the general public. There could be no better place to inspire, educate, and mobilize the general public than on a whale watch! Suzie has studied humpback whales and worked with the whale-watching industry in Alaska for 15 years and made this the focus of her PhD research. She now works at NOAA Fisheries and dedicates much of her time on responsible wildlife viewing and is the Alaska Coordinator for the Whale SENSE program. Additionally, she runs an active citizen science program, maintains an online catalog of humpback whales in the Juneau area, and coordinates the Juneau Marine Naturalist Symposium.

Laura Torre-Williams

Laura Torre-Williams is a visiting scholar at Griffith University. She has been studying humpback whales for a number of years. This research project started in 2013 and is ongoing. Laura is a whale researcher, a marine educator and a conservation advocate.




Raquel Trejo

Raquel Trejo is a master’s student at the National Marine Science Centre, part of Southern Cross University. She is researching the development of swimming with humpback whales in Australia, including legislation, management and the impact on whales.  Raquel has worked as an auditor for good environmental practices for large corporations in USA, Latin America and New Zealand, including companies like Dole, Zespri, Tegel, Tesco and Carrefour. She was born in Mexico City where she completed a Bachelors of Agronomy and did a master’s in International Environmental Sciences in Lund, Sweden. Raquel has a little biodynamic farm in Scotts Head, the Mid North Coast of Australia, is an avid scuba diver and has recently started practicing freediving.  

Ursula Tscherter

Ursula is a marine biologist and environmental educator who grew up in landlocked Switzerland. As a child, she learned about the issue of whaling at that time. In the mid-seventies she got involved in the growing movement to protest such unsustainable hunt. The whales became the charismatic flagship species of the environmental movement in Switzerland. Ursula worried for the whales and oceans despite living far from the coast and having never seen the ocean herself. It wasn’t until 1993 when the dream of her childhood came true when she took part in a field course in Eastern Canada of the Ocean Research and Education Society. For the very first time she saw a whale – an experience that changed her life profoundly.    For almost 20 years, she studied the little known minke whales in the Saint Lawrence Estuary where whale watching developed into a major tourist attraction. Yet, tourists were mainly interested in blue, humpback and beluga whales and a sighting of a minke whale was hardly worthwhile enough to be mentioned. Based on their research, Ned Lynas, the founder of ORES, and Ursula shared their knowledge about the highly interesting lives of minke whales with local naturalists, whale watchers and the public. Over the years their perception changed and minke whales are today an equally exciting sighting for tourists.    In Switzerland, Ursula likes to share her passion for whales and the oceans by giving public presentations, visiting schools, and offering courses for teachers. As part of her project “1:1 with Animals” she develops and produces various materials that are increasingly used by education and conservation organisations groups in the world.    Ursula also works as a guide and lecturer on expedition ships and continues to share her fascination and passion for whales and dolphins, the oceans and nature in general.  


Dylan Walker

Dylan is CEO for the Secretariat of the World Cetacean Alliance. He specialises in collaborative projects and network building to deliver marine conservation and animal welfare initiatives that protect marine species and habitats.

Having taken an ecology degree and a marine mammal science masters, Dylan has worked in ecotourism for 25 years, advising large and small tour operators and travel associations to deliver sustainable practices and marine conservation programmes.

As a scientist, conservationist, and former whale watch business owner, Dylan has worked with the whale watching industry across Europe, Latin America, and North America, and has written several books on cetaceans. He also co-founded WhaleFest, one of the world’s largest celebrations of whales and dolphins and campaigning platform for ocean conservation issues.

Dylan believes in grass roots environmental projects, scaled up through collaboration and coordination to deliver real and lasting change for people and wildlife at a global scale. 

Clive Martin

Clive is a founding Partner of the WCA and has served as a trustee. He is an Individual Member. The 'call of the sea' has always been in Clive's blood and he has served as Coastguard and a Helmsman in the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. He has always been involved in cetacean research and also educating passengers who travel on ships, both large and small. His utter dislike of institutions that hold cetaceans captive for ’theatrical’ purposes stimulated him to form the UK Charity Orca Rescues Foundation, which aims to assist with the work of captivity release, and the formation of sanctuaries that will hopefully house cetaceans that might be released from captivity. His travels across the Oceans have taken him across many thousands of sea miles, always in search of whales and dolphins and other wondrous ocean wildlife.

John Rumney

John Rumney Managing Director, Eye to Eye Marine Encounters Great Barrier Reef Legacy. John has a passion that is palpable and contagious. He has dedicated his professional and personal life to supporting research and pioneering marine ecotourism on the Great Barrier Reef. He has been an outstanding advocate for marine conservation whilst demonstrating the “commercial advantage to saving the reef”. John has been an unfaltering steward for the underwater world through his live-aboard adventure diving expeditions, citizen science programs, industry appointments and numerous community initiatives.  His efforts and knowledge of the underwater world has inspired countless individuals, PhD’s, influenced policy makers and continues to be a driving force in the preservation of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia’s greatest treasure.

In 1995, John initiated the Minke Whale Project (MWP) collaborating with researchers from James Cook University and Museum of Tropical Queensland. This has expanded over the years with citizen scientists contributing to Minke Whale Research on the Great Barrier Reef with whale Id’s and behavioral observations of these uniquely inquisitive animals. The MWP is held up as world’s best practice. 

In addition to having won numerous awards for his efforts in environmental conservation, John and his research initiatives have featured in many documentaries about the Great Barrier Reef including David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef.

John’s most recent endeavour, Great Barrier Reef Legacy is a not for profit social enterprise that will use an independently funded long-range research vessel to provide essential access and support for coral reef research, education and multimedia programs with a particular focus on engaging the youth of Australia.

Artwork by Burralangi