WINGED WHALE RESEARCH

 

Winged Whale Research (recently changed from "Eye of the Whale Research”) is a small nonprofit research and education group run by three women biologists. We have been studying the humpback whales in Prince William Sound since 1980, creating a long-term census. Whales swim by our "Whale Camp" ... a small canvas tent on an isolated gravel beach sixty miles from town. The whales' loud blows sometimes wake us in the night. In the time we have been studying them we have watched the recovery of the humpback whales from about 3,000 after commercial whaling to over 20,000 whales in the North Pacific Ocean.

Our intent has been to determine population numbers, distribution, feeding habits, and associations between animals.

We have documented over 400 different whales since 1980. The whales are familiar and comfortable with our research boat and the way we operate amongst them. We have had the privilege to see calves grow into large adults, and watch how they change and interact as they grow up.

The most exciting thing we have learned and documented is that humpback whales have strong enduring bonds. They form loose-knit "clans" or "communities" that travel and feed together. Some may even migrate together. Until now it was thought that humpback whales were promiscuous and had no long-term associations. We have seen males swimming with their favorite females for years. We have seen older females who have been swimming and feeding side by side since 1980. They have aged so much their tails begin to sag! They keep each other company...we call them the "Old Ladies"!

Olga von Ziegesar 
Olga is the full-time Principal Investigator and Co-director of Winged Whale Research.  She first went to Alaska on a kayak expedition.  Prince William Sound and the whales captivated her.  She studied marine mammals under Dr. Kenneth S. Norris at the University of California Santa Cruz. She graduated with a degree in Natural History and Environmental Studies. She raised two children in Homer, Alaska where she still lives on a small farm.  Olga met a woman named Beth Goodwin in college and together started the research as seniors. At the time they did not expect to be seeing the same whales returning to the Sound years later!

 

Shelley Gill
Co-Director of Winged Whale Research Shelley has worked in Prince William Sound the last 14 years as a principal and co-investigator studying humpback whales. She is an educator who has lectured to over 2 million students on whale habitat and behavior. An author, Gill has written 20 bestselling and award-winning natural history books for children. She works as a naturalist, guest lecturer, literacy consultant and whale detective.  She is also a pretty good mechanic and a great cook!