The SMM2017 Biennial Conference Committee is pleased to announce that Hal Whitehead, Asha de Vos, Nigel Hussey and Scott Kraus will be the plenary speakers at 2017: A Marine Mammal Odysessy. We are also excited to announce that Randy Reeves (Kenneth S. Norris Lifetime Achievement award), Julie van der Hoop (Wood Award) and Alex Karamanlidis (Conservation Merit Award)will also be delivering key presentation at the conference.  

Biographies for each speaker are listed below.


Pleanary Speakers



Hal Whitehead is a Professor in the Department of Biology at Dalhousie University.  He holds a BA in Mathematics (1972), Diploma in Mathematical Statistics (1977), and PhD in Zoology (1981) from Cambridge University in England.  His research focuses on social organization and cultural transmission in the deep-water whales, but he also works on their ecology, population biology and conservation. Field work is mainly carried out in the North Atlantic (particularly off eastern Canada), Caribbean and South Pacific Oceans from a 12-m sailing boat. He has developed statistical tools and software for analyzing vertebrate social systems.  He uses individual-based stochastic computer models to study cultural evolution, gene-culture coevolution and mating strategies.  Hal has published 244 articles in refereed journals or books, coedited "Cetacean Societies: Field Studies of Whales and Dolphins" (University of Chicago Press; 2000) and has written "Sperm Whales; Social Evolution in the Ocean" (University of Chicago Press, 2003), "Analyzing Animal Societies: Quantitative Methods for Vertebrate Social Analysis" (University of Chicago Press, 2008), and, with Luke Rendell, “The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins” (University of Chicago Press, 2015).  He has served on the IUCN Species Survival Commission Cetacean Specialist Group since 1983, has been co-chair of the COSEWIC Marine Mammal SSC between 2001-2004, and 2016-.  He received the Marsh Award for Marine and Freshwater Conservation, Zoological Society of London in 2007, and the Conservation Award of the European Cetacean Society in 2016.



Dr. Asha de Vos is a Sri Lankan marine biologist and educator with a BSc (Hons) in Marine and Environmental Biology from the University of St. Andrews, UK, a MSc in Integrative Biosciences from the University of Oxford, UK and a PhD from the University of Western Australia. Her PhD focused on the ‘Factors influencing blue whale distribution off southern Sri Lanka’ specifically as this area overlaps with one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. This represents a part of the research she has been conducting on this population since 2008. Her project ‘The Sri Lankan Blue Whale Project’ forms the first long term study on blue whales within the Northern Indian Ocean. She has published several key research publications on Sri Lankan blue whales, which have led to this population being designated as a species in urgent need of conservation research by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The IWC has since invited key Sri Lankan government personnel to participate in whale ship-strike related meetings to gain a broader understanding of the problem. Asha is also an invited member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Cetacean Specialist Group. Her efforts to bring attention to the unusual Sri Lankan blue whales and the threats they face have been showcased internationally by Channel 7 Australia (2010), the BBC (2010), the New York Times (2012), CNN (2012), WIRED UK (2014), the New Scientist (2014) and TED (2015). She is also a guest blogger for National Geographic. Asha is a TED Senior Fellow, a Duke University Global Fellow in Marine Conservation and was recently selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. She is currently a post-doctoral scholar at the University of California Santa Cruz, where she is working specifically on reducing the problem of ship-strike of blue whales in Sri Lankan waters.



Scott Kraus is Vice President and Senior Science Advisor for the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts. Kraus received his B.A. from College of the Atlantic, his M.S. in biology from the University of Massachusetts, and a Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire. Dr. Kraus has been conducting research on whales since 1980, and has published over 110 scientific papers on marine mammal biology and conservation, fisheries, and oceanography. Kraus’ recent research projects have included studies on the distribution and abundance of marine mammals and sea turtles around proposed wind farm sites, methods for reducing incidental bycatch of cetaceans in fishing gear, exploring visual capacities of cetaceans, and investigating the oceanographic underpinnings of marine mammal concentrations in the new Atlantic Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument.







Nigel Hussey is a leading expert on the application of biotelemetry and chemical tracers such as stable isotopes in the study of aquatic ecosystems. Nigel completed an undergraduate degree in Ecology/Geology at Kingston University, London, UK and later following an initial career as an English Language teacher, returned to complete an MSc in Marine Environmental Protection (with distinction) and a PhD in Marine Ecology at the School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, UK. Nigel has a keen interest in understanding the ecological role of elasmobranches (sharks, skates and rays) and now has >17 years experience of working with a diverse range of species in remote environments from the ice lands of the high Arctic to the desert of the Sudanese Red Sea, Australia, The Bahamas, Mozambique, Kenya, Southern Africa, Chagos and most recently Ascension Island in the central Atlantic. Over the last 7 years he has published over 70 peer reviewed scientific papers including those in Nature, Ecology Letters and Science. Nigel is currently an Assistant Professor in Biological Sciences at the University of Windsor, Canada and leads the Arctic program for the Global Ocean Tracking Network. His current research addresses three overarching themes; (i) quantifying the spatial and temporal movement patterns of species and determining the mechanistic drivers of observed behaviours, (2) examining how intra- and inter-species variability in interactions shape ecosystems and (3) assessing the impact of climate and human pressures on animal behaviour and biodiversity and their associated effects (positive and negative) on ecosystem structure. Recently and in collaboration with diverse Canadian partners, this work has expanded to include Arctic marine mammals, specifically through developing a field approach to better define the roles of aquatic predators in an ecosystem context. Overall the Hussey Lab examines individual, community and ecosystem level processes with the principal aim of providing data for effective conservation and management strategies. 



Featured Speakers



(Kenneth S. Norris Lifetime Achievement award)

Randall Reeves was born, raised, and partially educated in Nebraska. He received degrees from the University of Nebraska, Princeton, and McGill. After becoming hooked on whales in the mid-1970s, he began a 40+-year engagement with marine mammal research and conservation, initially as a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution, later based at the Arctic Biological Station near Montreal, and most recently out of his home in Hudson, Quebec. Besides participating in field projects on bowheads and narwhals in Alaska, the Canadian Arctic, and Greenland, on right whales and other cetaceans in the North Atlantic, and on river dolphins and coastal cetaceans in Asia and South America, he has spent a great deal of time in archives investigating the history of marine mammal exploitation. As chair of the IUCN/SSC Cetacean Specialist Group since 1996, he has been responsible for preparing and evaluating Red List assessments, drafting conservation action plans, and advising government agencies, intergovernmental bodies, and non-governmental organizations. He has published numerous journal articles, book chapters, and books on marine mammal conservation and science and is a long-time member of the IWC Scientific Committee and of Mexico’s vaquita recovery committee. Reeves also chairs the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission’s Committee of Scientific Advisers.




(Wood Award)

Julie completed her B.Sc with combined honours In marine biology and ocenagraphy at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Her undergraduate thesis focused on vessel-strike probabilities to North Atlantic right whales in a managed area in Canadian waters. She completed a Summer Student Fellowship at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) on humpback whale movement from an acoustic tracking platform, before assessing trends in large whale mortality in the context of management efforts as a research assistant at WHOI. Julie completed her PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and WHOI, where she combined her interests in movement and physiology, assessing animals’ behavioural, physiological, and fine-scale movement responses to added drag. 

Julie is currently a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow at Aarhus University (Denmark), where she continues to ask questions in physiology and movement across species and taxa.


(Conservation Merit Award)

Dr. Alexandros A Karamanlidis is a Greek/Dutch wildlife conservationist with a BSc in Biology and Physical Education from the Free University of Berlin, Germany, a MSc in Conservation Biology from the Manchester Metropolitan University, UK and a PhD from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. His professional career is shared between the study and protection of large carnivores in Europe and the study and protection of the endangered Mediterranean monk seal in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. For the latter, he has been for the past 15 years a member of the research team of MOm/Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk seal, a grass-root, non-governmental organization for the conservation of the species. His research focuses on the ecology and behavior of the Mediterranean monk seal, with a particular focus on the conservation genetics of the species. These efforts have resulted in the co-authoring of more than 25 scientific publications that have played a significant role in the re-evaluation of the Mediterranean monk seal by the IUCN and the downlisting of the species from Critically Endangered to Endangered. The research efforts of Dr. Karamanlidis have been supported by grants from National Geographic and the Marine Mammal Commission of the USA and highlighted by BBC Earth (2010, 2011) and the New Scientist (2016). Dr. Karamanlidis currently serves on the IUCN Pinniped, Otter and Brown bear Specialist Groups.

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