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Exciting times ahead for the MMRP

Updated: Oct 9, 2018

Written by Lars Bejder

In January 2018, it was my great pleasure to join the Marine Mammal Research Program (MMRP) at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Prior to this, I spent 12 years at the Cetacean Research Unit (now the Aquatic Megafauna Research Unit) at Murdoch University in Western Australia.

The MMRP has a long and impressive reputation in research into cetacean echolocation, sound production and hearing capabilities. This long research history provides for an ideal springboard to expand the MMRP into new areas. As the new director, it is my vision to expand the program’s emphasis to include broader research themes, many of which support conservation and management objectives. The focus will seek to identify the potential effects of human activities on cetaceans and pinnipeds, and the development of appropriate mitigation and management strategies. Research on marine mammal population dynamics, spatial ecology and behavior will involve efforts to estimate animal abundance and habitat use at local and regional scales, and across temporal scales. The program will take advantage of innovative technology (e.g. non-invasive suction cup tagging and unoccupied aerial vehicles; drones, stereo-laser photogrammetry) to quantify fine‐scale habitat use, movements, communication, growth, health and body condition of marine mammals. While I am not a bio-acoustician, I am confident that the program will maintain its strong standing within the research area of marine mammal acoustics given the continued efforts at the MMRP by Professors Whitlow Au, Paul Nachtigall and Dr Aude Pacini, coupled with our existing collaborations with leading international bio-acousticians.

The overall mission of the MMRP is the conservation of marine mammals, and the pathway to fulfilling our mission is through research that supports science-based management, innovation, collaborations and knowledge transfer. It is my strong belief that research is only effective in changing policy and local communities through dialogue and a multi-disciplinary approach. As such, we will engage heavily across sectors including academic institutions, state- and federal management agencies, industry, non-governmental organizations, community and educational organizations.

After nine months in Hawaii, the dust has settled and we are settling into a daily routine. I am fortunate that I have close family ties to the local community as my wife is originally from Hawaii. With us, we have our six-year old daughter, Melia. We are grateful for the reception we have had from family, new and old friends, and colleagues. In particular, I would like to thank Aude, Paul and Whitlow and my new colleagues at HIMB for the warm and supportive welcome they have given me.

I am excited about the opportunities that lies ahead of us, and am looking forward to working with new and current colleagues.

If you have any questions, comments or otherwise, I would very much like to hear from you.




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