Hawai'i OASIS project: Odontocete ASsessment around ISlands (artwork by Annie Douglas)

Hawai‘i OASIS project

Odontocete ASessment around ISlands

Publications, reports & conference presentations
Photos wanted
Species ID sheets
Adopt a (whale) Tag
Update from our latest field project
Reports from previous field projects

Map of the main Hawaiian islands showing search effort from 2000-2008

The Hawaii OASIS (Odontocete ASessment around ISlands) project is a long-term multi-species study of whales and dolphins around the Hawaiian Islands. Efforts focus primarily on the less-well studied odontocetes. This research has been ongoing since February 2000, initially under the auspices of Dalhousie University, and since September 2005 through Cascadia Research Collective, a non-profit research organization based in Olympia, Washington, USA. This research is being coordinated by Dr. Robin Baird of Cascadia Research, but involves collaborations with researchers from several U.S. government labs, universities, and non-profit groups. The research team includes Daniel Webster, Greg Schorr, Dan McSweeney, Sabre Mahaffy, Allan Ligon, Annie Gorgone, Erin Oleson, Annie Douglas, and others. Primary funding for this work has come from the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service and the Wild Whale Research Foundation, and the U.S. Navy (through the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Scripps Institution, and the Alaska SeaLife Center). Additional support has been provided by Dolphin QuestDolphin Quest, the M.B. & Evelyn Hudson Foundation, the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, and the Pacific Islands Fishery Science Center. These studies have covered areas around all the main Hawaiian islands, from the island of Hawai‘i in the east to Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau in the west, and focus on a number of species, including dwarf sperm whales, false killer whales, bottlenose dolphins, short-finned pilot whales, rough-toothed dolphins, melon-headed whales, pygmy killer whales, pantropical spotted dolphins, Blainville's beaked whales, and Cuvier's beaked whales. This work has involved studies of:

The Crittercam system is attached with a suction cup and will rotate on the body to face into the direction the animal is swimming. When the tagged whale stops forward motion the camera will swivel and sometimes face backwards. The false killer whale clip lasts three minutes. To see either clip again hit the Refresh button on your internet browser.

Results of some aspects of this work are currently submitted or being written up for publication, and information on other aspects are available in the following reports, publications, or conference abstracts.

Peer-reviewed publications

Popular articles, contract reports and government reports

Conference presentations


Map showing movements of two melon-headed whales satellite tagged in 2008

We are using remotely-deployed satellite tags to examine movements of six species of Hawaiian odontocetes. This research allows us to assess:

Short-finned pilot whale with remotely deployed satellite tag.

Although we have had funding for field activities each year since starting the satellite tagging work (in 2006), funding obtained for tags has been limited, allowing us only to tag a small number of individuals other than our primary species (beaked whales).

As a 501(c)3 non-profit research organization, any donations to Cascadia Research by individuals or organizations that are willing to sponsor the cost of one or more tags are tax deductible in the United States. Individuals that Adopt a (whale) Tag will receive a photo of their tag attached to a whale, a map showing movements of the individual and more information both on that species of whale and the sighting history of that individual. Species that we have tagged in Hawaii so far include Blainville's beaked whales, Cuvier's beaked whales, false killer whales, pygmy killer whales, melon-headed whales and short-finned pilot whales, although in the future we also hope to examine movements of killer whales and Longman's beaked whales.

For information on how to Adopt a (whale) Tag contact Robin Baird at rwbaird (at) cascadiaresearch.org

Photographs taken by whale watching or sports fishing charter operators, passengers on sightseeing or sportsfishing trips, and private individuals out boating have all contributed to helping understand the residency and movements of Hawaiian whales and dolphins. Contributions by Chris Bane of HoloHolo Charters off Kaua'i, Tori Cullins of the Wild Dolphin Foundation and Chuck Babbitt off O'ahu, and the Hawai'i Marine Mammal Consortium, among others, have played an important role in understanding inter-island movements of several species.

If you have photographs of the dorsal fins of Hawaiian odontocetes (other than spinner dolphins) from any of the Hawaiian islands, and are willing to share these photographs for comparisons of inter-island movements, please contact me by e-mail at rwbaird (at) cascadiaresearch.org


There are three pairs of species of Hawaiian odontocetes that are particularly difficult to distinguish in the field, and we have made up one-page sheets that include photographs and text that point out the key features to distinguish them. The purpose of these ID sheets is for folks to print out and carry in the field to help in IDing species. Photographs on these sheets are copyrighted and should not be used for any other purpose.

Dwarf and pygmy sperm whales Pygmy killer whales and melon-headed whales Cuvier's and Blainville's beaked whales


With the cooperation of the NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office and Dr. Kristi West of Hawai‘i Pacific University we are also trying to use data and samples from stranded animals to help understand wild populations - information on the types of samples and data we are using can be found in the following pdf file:

Hawaii stranding sample/data request

Squid and octopus carcasses from Hawaiian waters are wanted for research purposes. During 2006 we started collecting floating cephalopod carcassess off the island of Hawai‘i, and since then we've collected 26 specimens. These specimens were identified by Bill Walker of the National Marine Mammal Laboratory, and include a pelagic octopod, Alloposus mollis, and a number of deep-water squid, Architeuthis sp., Cycloteuthis akimushkini), Discoteuthis sp., Enoploteuthis reticulata, Histioteuthis hoylei, Mastigoteuthis sp., and Moroteuthis sp. All species may be eaten by deep-diving odonotocetes - collection of these specimens will both help us understand what species of cephalopods are in the area, and be used in a study of trophic ecology involving analyses of stable isotopes and fatty acids.

*Research outlined on this page is being undertaken under U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service Scientific Research Permits No. 731-1509 (issued to R.W. Baird), No. 774-1714 (issued to the Southwest Fisheries Science Center), and No. 782-1719 (issued to the National Marine Mammal Laboratory).

Wondering what the is? It is an ‘okina, which marks a glottal stop used in many Polynesian languages. An ‘okina is used in many Hawaiian place names, such as Hawai‘i and Kaho‘olawe, but is not used in the word Hawaiian.

Go to the Cascadia Research Collective main web page

Last Updated March 2009 by Robin W. Baird