whale tales 2014: learn about these incredible creatures and meet renowned researchers

BW_FlipNicklinImage• Humpback whales may be coming off the endangered list?
• Are whales more like humans than we had thought?
• Killer whales tagged in Hawai‘i.
• The subtle tones of Humpback songs.
• Award-winning underwater IMAX footage.

These are just a few of the topics that will be unveiled and discussed at this year’s Whale Tales, an annual educational fundraising event, featuring presentations, receptions and whale watches. The event runs from February 14 through 17, 2014. Presentations include some of the latest findings on social, behavioral and conservation topics related to whales and their natural environment. Hear directly from the source on recent discoveries and view stunning underwater photography and video of whales in their natural environment. Join the experts on the water with the whales and feel the magic during the benefit whale watching cruises hosted throughout the weekend.

Highlights of this year’s event include:  Seven-time Emmy award-winning filmmakers Howard and Michele Hall showing excerpts and discussing their underwater IMAX movies; Ralph Lee Hopkins, Director of Photography for National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions sharing some of his greatest adventures; and in honor of Valentine’s Day, National Geographic photographer Flip Nicklin and videographer Jason Sturgis showing some of their favorite underwater footage of dancing humpbacks.

Other highlights include:

• Dr. Phil Clapham, leader of National Marine Mammal Lab’s Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program. With nearly three decades of whale research experience under his belt, Phil is the author of four books and nearly a hundred peer-reviewed papers on whales and other cetaceans. Phil will be discussing the success story of humpbacks coming back from the brink of extinction and will discuss the recent and controversial proposal to remove humpback whales from the endangered species list. His new book, Winged Leviathan, will be premiered for public signing at Whale Tales.

• Hal Whitehead, one of the world’s foremost experts on the social behavior and culture of whales. Hal will be speaking about biologists’ emerging understanding of whale culture. In any culture, information moves between individuals through social learning. This cultural flow is important and affects evolution, ecology, and society. The various cultures of modern humans are undeniably complex. But are humans the only species to have important cultural constructs?

• Robin Baird, leading researcher for Cascadia Research Collective. Robin’s work focuses on the biology and ecology of species of toothed whales in Hawai‘i. Robin’s recent research contributed to the listing of Hawai‘i’s false killer whales on the endangered species list. In November 2013, his team was the first to identify and tag killer whales in Hawai‘i off of the Big Island.

• Jim Darling, a senior scientist that has been studying the ever-changing songs of humpbacks off Maui (and elsewhere around the world) since the 1970’s. Jim is a leading authority in humpback whale communication, especially the songs of whales, and will be discussing the evolution of how that changes across the Pacific Ocean.

“Whales bring thousands of people and millions of dollars to the economy in Hawai‘i alone each year,” says Whale Trust Maui Executive Director, Meagan Jones. “Whale Tales gives residents and visitors the unique opportunity to experience whales firsthand with the experts – the people that have dedicated their lives to studying them – and to give back in meaningful ways by supporting the research community to continue their important work.”

Additional speakers for Whale Tales 2014 include: Fred Sharpe of Alaska Whale Foundation; National Geographic photographer Flip Nicklin; Ed Lyman from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary; Mark Ferrari of the Center for Whale Studies; marine life photographer Marty Wolff; Dr. Rachel Cartwright of Keiki Kohala Project; and more.

Presentations are FREE and open to the public on Saturday and Sunday at The Maui Theatre in Lahaina. Benefit whale watches with the experts are held throughout the weekend, with morning whale watches daily and excursions all day Monday, February 17. This annual event has raised over $250,000 for whale research on Maui since 2006.

The 8th Annual Whale Tales is made possible through the generous support of many individuals and organizations. This year’s major event sponsors are Makana Aloha Foundation, Deborah & Michael Rybak, Pacific Life and National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions.

About Whale Trust Maui

Whale Trust Maui is a Maui-based non-profit organization whose mission is to promote, support and conduct scientific research on whales and the marine environment, and broadly communicate the findings to the public. Its founders are passionate scientists and explorers who believe that science—the quest for answers to the most intriguing questions about our natural world—lies at the heart of environmental education and conservation. Whale Trust Maui’s research programs focus on exploring the natural communication, behavior patterns and social organization of whales. Results from Whale Trust Maui’s field research are the basis for a broader program of outreach and education that involve the public, educators and a new generation of researchers whom Whale Trust Maui hopes to inspire.

Whale Tales 2014 sponsorship packages and VIP passes, which include premium seating and private reception tickets, can be purchased in advance at WhaleTrustMaui.org or by calling (808) 572-5700. You can also “like” Whale Trust  on Facebook for regular event updates.

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