videoRoger Payne, PhD
Founder/President, Ocean Alliance
Gloucester, Massachusetts, USA
Roger Payne has a BA from Harvard and a PhD from Cornell. His dissertation was on how barn owls can locate prey solely by hearing them move. However, he is best known for his discoveries that humpback whales sing songs and that the calls of blue and fin whales can carry across oceans. He spent a total of 24 years teaching at Tufts and Rockefeller Universities before founding Ocean Alliance.
He has trained many of the current leaders in whale research, both here and abroad, and pioneered many of the benign research techniques for studying whales (now used in more than 60 countries). Since he began studying whales in 1967, Payne has led more than 100 expeditions to all oceans. His research on the behavior of Southern right whales, begun in 1970, is the longest continuous study of any baleen whale based on recognizable individuals. It currently follows more than 2,300 known individual whales.
Payne’s recent research includes a five-year, around-the-world voyage by his institute’s research vessel, Odyssey, to measure the concentrations of toxic metals and persistent organic pollutants in the skin and blubber of sperm whales. It sampled 955 whales from all oceans. His institute has just completed the third year of a five-year program in the Gulf of Mexico (directed by John Wise, marine toxicologist at the University of Southern Maine) to study the effects on Gulf wildlife of both the oil spilled by BP in 2010 and the chemicals used to disperse it.
Payne has worked tirelessly for the conservation of whales in many international fora, including his long membership on the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission. His extensive scientific and popular writing includes four books, one titled Among Whales (1995). He has created four whale records - one, the most successful natural history recording ever made; another, published as a flexible recording by National Geographic in its magazine remains to this day, at 10.5 million copies, the largest single print order in the history of the recording industry. More than 40 TV documentaries on whales have covered his work, and he is co-writer and co-director of the IMAX film, Whales.
Payne’s many awards include: a knighthood in the Netherlands; a 5-year MacArthur Prize Fellowship; a 3-year Lyndhurst Foundation Fellowship; the 1992 Emmy for Best Interview for One on One with Charlie Rose; a UNEP Global 500 Award; and Oxford University’s Dawkins Prize.
Ocean Alliance Crew - Scientific Manager
Originally from the United Kingdom, Andy Rogan has been a regular presence both at the Ocean Alliance HQ in Gloucester, Massachusetts and on the seas as a crewmember of the RV Odyssey since 2011. Holding an MSc in animal behavior, he is particularly interested in the behavioral ecology of apex predators such as marine mammals and sharks, and their roles in maintaining healthy ocean environments. He hopes to pursue a career path in research-driven marine conservation.
This year’s Operation Toxic Gulf campaign is his third expedition in the Gulf of Mexico and his second time working as Scientific Manager. It is also his second time working alongside Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
Andy’s key interest during this expedition is establishing how great a threat the dual toxicological hazards of the 2010 oil blowout and the industrial & agricultural run-off from the Mississippi river pose to the long-term health of resident marine mammals. He is also hoping the research can provide a unique data set guiding clean-up efforts of any future spills, allowing their impact to be understood and their environmental damage prevented.
This year, with the help of Sea Shepherd, he is hoping to fully utilize the unique research capabilities of the RV Odyssey, and expand the scientific program to include behavioral and acoustic data on the marine mammals of the Gulf of Mexico.
Ocean Alliance Crew - Captain
When Ocean Alliance purchased The Odyssey in December 1991, they inherited the engineer, now captain, Bob Wallace. Bob has been working as the engineer and captain of The Odyssey since 1986 when the vessel was a private yacht. Bob is an experienced and accomplished sailor, having circumnavigated the globe three times on three different vessels. Bob Wallace has worked as captain and engineer of The Odyssey throughout many Ocean Alliance campaigns, sailing the vessel on voyages to the Dominican Republic, Galapagos Islands, the Sea of Cortez, The Bahamas, and one trip around the world for The Voyage of The Odyssey. For the past four summers, Bob has sailed The Odyssey around the Gulf of Mexico for the Ocean Alliance sperm whale research campaigns, making this year’s Operation Toxic Gulf his fifth research voyage through the Gulf. When Bob isn’t on The Odyssey he can be found riding trains or listening to live music.
Ocean Alliance Crew - First Mate
Dan Haefner joined the final leg of the 2013 Operation Toxic Gulf expedition and has been a mainstay on the RV Odyssey's crew ever since. His unique ability to seemingly repair any machine with any tool has made him an important cog in the Odyssey machine, helping Captain Bob Wallace to keep the vessel “ship shape” and allowing the science team to collect the data. Though originally a land lover by nature, in less than a year Dan has logged more than one thousand nautical miles and is quickly being converted to a lover of the oceans. Being onboard the Odyssey has been one of the greatest experiences of his life.
When not at sea performing his duties as First Mate, Dan is an accomplished professional photographer who has been published in magazines and newspapers and continues to work out of his hometown of Pensacola, Florida. In the past he has specialized in environmental protest photography, regularly traveling around the country and using his images to help inform and educate the public. He also enjoys astro-photography and concert/band photography.
Living within a few miles of the Gulf of Mexico, in one of the coastal areas hit hardest by the 2010 oil spill, Operation Toxic Gulf has an extremely personal meaning to Dan. He hopes to continue supporting the vital work being done to help understand and protect the oceanic habitat so close to his home.
Sea Shepherd Crew - Photographer
Eliza’s first day at sea was the second day of her life and she grew up with the salt in her hair, racing small sailing boats internationally. She now calls herself a “communicator for the good stuff,” and spends her time creating film and photographic material, alongside joining campaigns to help animals and the environment.
Her belief in using the power of film and photography for animal issues was sparked by a combined degree in Animal Science and Creative Arts, which she completed at Melbourne University in 2009. When Eliza began learning about industrial animal agriculture and its environmental impacts, she decided to dedicate her studies and time to defending, conserving and protecting the environment and the animals who call it home.
She completed a Masters in Science Communication in Documentary Film at Otago University in New Zealand in 2010. Later that year Eliza moved back to Melbourne and co-founded an organization called Fair Projects, which offered affordable media and communications to non-profits. She went on to be named one of “The Age’s Top 100 Most Influential Melbournians”. Later that same year, she was asked aboard the M/Y Steve Irwin to work in media for Operation Kimberley Miinimbi - and she never left.
Since this time, Eliza has lived aboard the M/Y Steve Irwin, sailing to some of the last true wilderness regions on this planet, working to create and develop the stories surrounding the protection and defense of the oceans. Operation Toxic Gulf will be her fifth Sea Shepherd campaign and her second time in the Gulf working together with Ocean Alliance. Eliza is a big believer in bringing together activism and science, and she is looking forward to sharing photos and videos with you that will explain what’s going on in the Gulf of Mexico after BP’s 2010 oil disaster.
Sea Shepherd Crew - Chief Engineer
Erwin Vermeulen has been working for more than twenty years at sea. During his leaves, he spent his time traveling around the world to a growing realization that the natural beauty that he visited also needed protection. Since then, he has combined his job as Chief Engineer on commercial ships with volunteering for Sea Shepherd.
Erwin has participated in campaigns in the Southern Ocean, the Mediterranean, the Faroe Islands, Taiji, Japan and along the Columbia River, USA. In addition he helps as needed on ship management and repairs. He is honored to be part of the Operation Toxic Gulf campaign onboard the research vessel Odyssey for the second time.
This year he has participated or will participate in campaigns in the Antarctic, Galapagos Islands, Gulf of Mexico, Faroe Islands and possibly more.
Erwin works together with his girlfriend Susan on animal rescues in the US. They share their houses with: a one-eyed cat named Snake, Dolly, a cat with one kidney, a deaf cat named Poes, a blind and deaf dog named Sally, and a retired Galapagos wildlife-sniffing canine officer named Manotas. Erwin calls both Friday Harbor, San Juan Island and Veldhoven, the Netherlands home, but he spends as much time at sea.
He photographs and writes for www.piepvandaag.nl and for www.seashepherd.org.
videoEva Hildago Pla
Sea Shepherd Crew - Scientific Support
To Eva, the oceans suffer as much from those who exploit it as from those who stand by and watch it happen. She believes that is imperative that we, as passionate individuals, act. That is the main reason why Eva joined Sea Shepherd back in 2010 - an organization that actively protects the ocean and all its creatures through direct action.
Since she joined the Steve Irwin almost four years ago, she has sailed around the oceans of the world. Eva has been part of campaigns to protect bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean Sea, pilot whales in the Faroe Islands, and saving more than 3,200 whales in Antarctica.
Born in Barcelona, Spain, she joined the Sea Shepherd fleet as a 20-year-old who had never sailed before. Her time on the ship, spent with its great crew, led her on a journey of many different roles. Starting as a Deckhand, she later became Helicopter Assistant, part of the small boats crew during action time, and served as Bosun and Bosun’s Mate onboard the Steve Irwin. Eva, together with Ocean Alliance, has also coordinated the data collection in Antarctic waters for scientific research while on the journey to protect the whales of the Southern Ocean during Sea Shepherd Australia’s Operation Relentless campaign.
With a background in biology and an innate passion to better understand human impacts on the marine ecosystems of the world, Eva joined the crew of the RV Odyssey, for this year’s Operation Toxic Gulf.
As a biology student and activist, Eva believes that science and conservation must work side-by-side. By joining Operation Toxic Gulf, she hopes to be able to, alongside Ocean Alliance and Sea Shepherd, show what damage done by an oil spill can be hidden beneath the surface, and stop this disaster from taking place again.
From the Mediterranean to Antarctica to the Gulf of Mexico, through activism and research Eva fights for better understanding and protection of the world’s marine ecosystems and for all their inhabitants and for science that respects the earth.
Ocean Alliance Crew - CEO
Dr. Iain Kerr is the CEO of Ocean Alliance, an organization recognized as an international leader in whale research and ocean conservation since its founding by renowned scientist Dr. Roger Payne in 1970. Born in Scotland in 1956, Iain has a Bachelor of Education Degree, with honors, from the University of London. Working in the United States since 1983, Iain became a permanent US resident in 1998. Iain started with Ocean Alliance as a volunteer and worked his way up through the ranks over the last 18 years to his current title of CEO.
Iain has held board positions on the Alaska Whale Foundation, The Canadian Whale Institute and the Loreto Bay Foundation. He has also worked with the Alexander Graham Bell Foundation for the Deaf. Iain is an accomplished speaker and photographer and has led international teams in research and conservation efforts to all parts of the globe including Australia, Argentina, Alaska, the Caribbean, the Canary Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Greece, Hawaii, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Seychelles and other island groups in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea.
He calls his passion “conservation science”. He is listed as author and or co-author on more than 25 scientific papers and has ensured that Ocean Alliance discoveries reach the general public in both technical and layman’s form.
Iain has, for the last fourteen years, directed his energies toward Ocean Alliance’s most ambitious program, the Voyages of The Odyssey. The first voyage, which ended in August of 2005, was a five-year, around-the-world research program to collect the first-ever baseline data set on the concentration, distribution, and effects of synthetic contaminants on top predator species throughout the world’s oceans.
Iain is very excited to find himself onboard The R/V Odyssey as Campaign Leader for Operation Toxic Gulf, the first-ever collaboration between Ocean Alliance and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
Sea Shepherd Crew - General Support
When the Netherlands-based activist, environmentalist and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society crewmember Konrad Szymanski came upon inspiring stories from other activists, he was fascinated. In a matter of time, while listening, reading and talking with them, he came to realize that there is so much to do - and to do it means actively doing something. He believes that if you have been in touch with nature since a young age and start to care about and respect it, you’ll begin a voyage that will shape you for the rest of your life.
It became loud and clear to Konrad that as the planet changes, the oceans are essential to assuring its survival. Upon this realization, it took only moments for him to join Sea Shepherd. In the years since, he has traveled to Japan and Australia to spread the message and do whatever it takes to save the precious and beautiful life in the oceans. Currently, he is a part of Sea Shepherd and Ocean Alliance’s Operation Toxic Gulf campaign aboard the RV Odyssey.
Konrad believes that even a small change can make difference. He works to spread awareness about important issues as pollution, nature, food and health. He also feels strongly that photography is important to these causes because the camera is the most powerful and effective weapon created by humans.
In his view, Operation Toxic Gulf sends a message about what dedication and commitment can accomplish against all odds, and a lesson that each one of us has the ability to make a difference.
Sea Shepherd Crew - Cook
Marc is a professional chef who calls London, England his home. Three years ago, inspired by his best friend and the documentaries The Cove & Earthlings, he went vegan and now uses his many years of experience for the good of Planet Earth and her oceans.
Having grown up in South Africa, Marc’s summers spent in the waves and lagoons of the South coast, and family vacations to the beautiful wildlife and nature reserves, have all fostered a deep affinity towards animals, both on land and at sea.
Being quick to stand up for those who don’t have a voice, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was a natural choice for Marc as he put his career on hold to be the change he wants to see in the world.
Marc believes a Straight Edge Vegan lifestyle, a positive mental attitude, and caring for our planet without prejudice are the key to a life well lived.
Ocean Alliance Crew - Intern
Randy Wilson is 18 years old and has come to the Gulf from Acton, Massachusetts. He will be attending the University of Montana beginning this Fall, studying wildlife biology and forestry. He is a three palm Eagle Scout, Colonial re-enactor, and musician. He has loved being outdoors since he joined the Boy Scouts. He is also an avid lacrosse and basketball player and likes to run track and cross-country.
He has always been interested in wildlife preservation and has tried to take every opportunity to do his part in helping all species of wildlife. During his freshman year of high school, Randy took a trip to Montana and Yellowstone National Park with National Geographic to learn about the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone. From that point on, he has been completely enthralled by conservation and tries to involve himself any way he can when it comes to being outside with wildlife.
He first became active with Ocean Alliance as an intern through his high school. Randy spent a month in Key West repairing the RV Odyssey and was part of the haul out crew when she was first put back in. He was then invited back to the Odyssey to take part in Operation Toxic Gulf. Randy believes in the important work being done by Ocean Alliance and Sea Shepherd and was more than happy to join them on this voyage to study sperm whales.
Sea Shepherd Crew - General Support
Sarah Colosimo is from Melbourne, Australia and has had a lifelong love for the oceans that has been nurtured by her involvement with marine conservation organisations. Motivated by her passion and desire for knowledge, she felt an irrevocable responsibility to safeguard the oceans and its inhabitants, which led her to join Sea Shepherd in 2011.
Operation Toxic Gulf is Sarah's second Sea Shepherd campaign. During Operation Kimberley Miinimbi in 2012, she served as a Quartermaster aboard the Steve Irwin and was responsible for conducting population and behavioral surveys as well as collating data on the at-risk humpback whale population off the Kimberley coastline of Australia.
After working for Sea Shepherd Australia, Sarah has since been assisting with field research on Monterey Bay, collecting data and photo IDs of whales and dolphins, including her most beloved orcas. Her experiences on vessels at sea and conducting research have affirmed her dedication to this field and inspired her to return to study in order to make a difference, while also seeing her develop valuable skills and excellent whale spotting eyes.
Sarah is currently obtaining her Bachelor's Degree in Marine Biology in California, with graduate studies and a career in marine mammal research in sight. It is her goal to bring together her passion for conservation and science to better understand and protect the marine environment. She is infinitely excited by marine science, and is especially interested in marine mammal toxicology and anthropogenic stressors on cetaceans.
Sarah is honored to contribute, as an Operation Toxic Gulf crewmember, to this imperative study by Ocean Alliance and Sea Shepherd, who are bringing together conservation and science to reveal the health of the food web and ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico through its apex predator, the sperm whale. This campaign will unveil the biological impacts of the largest environmental disaster of her lifetime.