Subject: Whale Research and Career

Jennifer D. Philips (
Fri, 08 May 1998 10:20:21 -1000

>Dear Jen,
>   Hello.I'm a 7th grader at Olive Pierce Middle School.My language arts
>teacher,Mrs.Lindberg,assigned our class an I search essay.Also known as
>a research essay on whatever I chose to do it on.I decided to research
>whales.I was wondering if you had the time could you answer a few of my
>questions ASAP?
>How and when did you become interested in whales?
>What type of research have you done on them?
>What kind of training did you have to go through to get your job?
>What things did you discover about them?
>What is thier behavior do they have?
>               From
>                  Heather Ziegler
>P.S.Well I hope to hear from you.Thanks!!!
>you can reach me at:

Heather - 

Here are my answers to your questions:

>How and when did you become interested in whales?
I just became interested in whales about when you probably did - when I was
growing up.  Not living close to the ocean, but close enough to visit it,
and living close to a marine life park, I bacame fascinated with the ocean,
whales and dolphins when I was bout 10.

>What type of research have you done on them?
I've done research with both wild whales and dolphins, as well as captive
dolphins.  In the wild, I have done what's called population assessments on
gray whales migrating through Monterey Bay, in California.  To do this, we
spent most of our days on boats searching for whales, then we counted them
when we found them, and made note of where we found them.  Now I do
research with bottlenosed dolphins, false killer whales, and risso's
dolphins, studying hearing and echolocation.  For this, we work with the
dolphins so that they know how to position themselves in an underwater
station, where we will then listen to and study the sonar clicks they

>What kind of training did you have to go through to get your job?
I have been in school for a very long time!  After I finished high school,
I went to college and studied biology.  I also volunteered and worked for a
research project with seals and sea lions, studying hearing, and I
organized a marine mammal stranding network.  After I graduated with my
bachelor's degree, I went on to graduate school, which is where I am now.
I am doing research with risso's dolphins echolocation, and I am studying
as well.  Eventually I'll get my PhD, and get a position doing and
organizing research with marine mammals.

>What things did you discover about them?
When I have seen whales in the wild, from a boat, I have realized that
there is really very little we can see from a boat!  The life of a whale is
underwater, in a three dimensional, weightless environment.  They come to
the surface because they must breath, but so much of their lives takes
place where we cannot see them.  I've discovered that they are complex,
yes, but they are also just as simple as we are, as simple as any other
animal on earth.  I do not believe that dolphins or whales are our
spiritual cousins, but they ARE interesting and fascinating to study.  They
are complex because they are social.  They can live in tight, structured
social groups and adapt to the changing dynamics that such a group
involves.  From my work in the stranding network, I've also discovered that
they are very fragile as well.

>What is thier behavior do they have?
This, you know, is too large of a question to answer here!  Behavior can be
anything that they do.  How would you describe the behavior that YOU 'do'?
That would be a hard one to answer fully!  Anyway, I'll summarize them:
whales breath air, they live in the ocean, they give birth to live, warm
blooded young, they nurse their young, they migrate between feeding grounds
and breeding grounds, they mate, court, fight, and probably play, they
whistle, moan, grunt, squeak, click, and sing, and they eat krill with
their baleen. 

Good luck on your 'I Search'!  Write back if you have any more questions.

Aloha  - 



Jennifer D. Philips

Marine Mammal Research Program
HIMB, University of Hawaii at Manoa
PO Box 1106			
Kailua, HI  96734
voice:  (808) 247-5063
fax: (808) 247-5831