The Biennial Conferences predate the beginning of the Society. They were a successor to the late Tom Poulter’s “Annual Conference on Biological Sonar and Diving Mammals” held at the Stanford Research Institute (formally separated from Stanford University in 1970 and now known as SRI International) in Menlo Park, California, beginning in 1964. After Tom’s passing, Ken Norris picked up the ball and instigated the First Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, hosted by UC Santa Cruz in 1975. A second Biennial followed in 1977 in San Diego, supported by the U.S. Naval Ocean Systems Center. Attendance at the first conference was about 300 and at the second 480. Following the second conference, George Harry, then Director of what is now the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle, initiated discussions about forming a society to organize and run the conferences. The responses favored the idea. In 1978, Ken Norris took the major steps of preparing a “Preliminary Design of a Society of Marine Mammalogy” and forming an organizational committee (consisting of Tom Dohl, George Harry, Burney Le Boeuf, John Lilly, Ken Norris, Bill Perrin, Bill Powell and Forrest Wood, later expanded to include Bob Elsner, Bill Evans, Lou Herman and Ron Schusterman). The new society would “provide a vehicle for promoting the science of marine mammalogy.”

The committee met during the Third Biennial in Seattle in 1979 and discussed the preliminary design, proposed criteria for membership, and suggested by-laws. All was firmed up by correspondence, and at the Fourth Biennial in San Francisco in 1981, Ken presented the need and plans for a society to a meeting of those conference participants interested in forming one. The proposal was accepted by the group, and Ken was elected the first President by acclamation. Ken took the lead on confirming charter members, drafting a constitution and by-laws, and getting the Society officially incorporated. He truly was the father of the Society.

Since the first biennial conference held in 1975, there have been 23 conferences held in different locations across the United States and the world. Conference attendance has grown from the 300 in 1975 to more than 2700 in 2019. For a full list of past and future conferences, see the list below.

To learn more about The Society for Marine Mammalogy, click here.


The full list of Biennial conferences is:

25th Biennial Conference, 2023 Perth, Western Australia December

24th Biennial Conference, 2022 West Palm Beach, Florida, USA 1-5 August

World Marine Mammal Conference, 2019 Barcelona, Spain 9-12 December
(co-hosted with the European Cetacean Society)

22nd Biennial Conference, 2017 Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada 23-27 October

21st Biennial Conference, 2015 San Francisco, California, USA 13-18 December

20th Biennial Conference, 2013 Dunedin, New Zealand 9-13 December

19th Biennial Conference, 2011 Tampa, Florida USA 26 November – 2 December

18th Biennial Conference, 2009 Quebec City, Canada 12-16 October

17th Biennial Conference, 2007 Cape Town, South Africa 29 November – 3 December

16th Biennial Conference, 2005 San Diego, California, USA 12-16 December

15th Biennial Conference, 2003 Greensboro, North Carolina, USA 14-19 December

14th Biennial Conference, 2001 Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 28 November – 3 December

13th Biennial Conference, 1999 Maui, Hawaii, USA 28 November – 3 December

12th Biennial Conference, 1998 World Marine Mammal Science Conference Monte Carlo, Monaco 20-25 January

11th Biennial Conference, 1995 Orlando, Florida, USA 14-18 December

10th Biennial Conference, 1993 Galveston, Texas, USA 11-15 November

9th Biennial Conference, 1991 Chicago, Illinois, USA 5-9 December

8th Biennial Conference, 1989 Pacific Grove, California, USA 7-11 December

7th Biennial Conference, 1987 Miami, Florida, USA 5-9 December

6th Biennial Conference, 1985 Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 22-26 November

5th Biennial Conference, 1983 Boston, Massachusetts, USA 27 November – 1 December

4th Biennial Conference, 1981 San Francisco, California, USA 14-18 December

3rd Biennial Conference, 1979 Seattle, Washington, USA 7-11 October

2nd Biennial Conference, 1977 San Diego, California, USA 12-15 December

1st Biennial Conference, 1975 Santa Cruz, California, USA 4-7 December


NOTE: Abstract books were printed as a conference booklet and are not a primary source for citation. Please do not cite without permission of authors.



The Biennial Conference is generally held in North America every other conference, or every fourth year. The following are some general points for potential conference organizers to address in preparing an expression of interest. Details will be worked out with the Board and with consideration of the results of the questionnaire sent to members about the conference. Additional suggestions prepared by previous organizers and the names of individuals to contact are available upon request.


5 full days plus a registration day and consideration for 2-3 days of pre- or post-conference workshops.


  • Meeting space for a plenary session of at least 2000 people. Space for at least three (3) concurrent contributed sessions of at least 700 people each. The concurrent session rooms need to be close enough to each other to allow people to move between them in the few minutes allowed between papers. If immediately adjacent to each other, acoustic separation is extremely important.
  • Space for at least 800 4′ x 4′ (~120 cm x 120 cm) posters to be displayed for the entire meeting; ideally with room for lots of people to mingle and carry on conversations.
  • Space for vendor and non-profit organization tables.
  • Several smaller rooms (separate from main meeting rooms) for conference office, small group meetings (25-100 people) available for the duration of the meeting. All conference facilities should be available from 0800 to 2400 each day of the conference.
  • Banquet space for at least 1,200 people, maybe as many as 1,500.

For the above, you need to check out the facilities of a large hotel or other conference facility to ensure adequate meeting space. Eventually, a contract is negotiated with whatever facility is chosen and the final agreement requires approval by the Board of the Society for Marine Mammalogy. Negotiations need to include room rates, number of rooms the meeting guarantees to fill (usually based on previous meetings), complimentary rooms, etc. BEFORE making any formal contacts with hotels or convention centers, contact the Society and we may have an agreement with a professional organization that will assist with negotiations.


The Conference committee is also responsible for (subject to Board approval) conference advertising, conference structure (including abstract review and printing the abstract book), determining the registration fee structure and other costs so that the Conference will be self-sufficient, registration activities (including staff), organizing conference artwork, t-shirts, mugs, etc. It is desirable for potential conference organizers to have a representative living in or near the city proposed for the conference.