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Expedition Biosphere - Team Bios

Dr. Michael Poole Dr. Michael Poole
South Pacific Whale Research Consortium
Marine Mammal Research Program

Dr. Poole received his doctorate from the University of California, based on his research on spinner dolphins around Moorea and Tahiti in French Polynesia. His Master’s degree was from California State University, based on his research on migrating gray whales along the central California coast. His Bachelor’s degree was from the University of Miami, Florida, where he worked on manatees. Michael has dual American and French citizenship, has lived in French Polynesia since 1987, and his scientific research in French Polynesia concerns both dolphins and whales. From 1987 to 1996 he was based at the University of California, Berkeley laboratory on Moorea; from 1997 to 2006 he was the Director of the Marine Mammal Research Program based at CRIOBE, a French laboratory on Moorea. Michael is presently a research associate of the NGO ‘National Oceanic Society’ in the United States; a charter member of the international Society for Marine Mammalogy; a member of the American Society of Mammalogists; and a founding member and Executive Officer of the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium.

On Moorea in 1992, Dr. Poole founded the company “Dolphin & Whale Watching Expeditions”, the first company in French Polynesia to conduct dedicated eco-tours to observe dolphins and whales. In 1994 Michael, with French Polynesia’s Office des Postes et Télécommunication (OPT), created three postage stamps with the theme of whales and dolphins, two of which featured his photographs; Michael also wrote the philatelic brochures that accompanied the series. In 1995 Dr. Poole produced a poster in three languages (Tahitian, French, and English) about three of the most frequently observed species of dolphins and whales in French Polynesia and the Cook Islands. These posters, financed by the Ministry of the Environment, were distributed free of charge to schools. In 1997 Michael produced a second poster showing all 24 species of dolphins and whales known to exist in French Polynesia; these posters were likewise financed by the Ministry of the Environment.

The biggest scientific discovery of Dr. Poole’s career was that a population of genetically distinct humpback whales, different from others in the South Pacific, reproduces in the waters of French Polynesia in the Society and Austral Islands. Michael has identified over 500 unique individuals, and his research has proven that over the years a few of these whales have also been observed in the Cook Islands, in American Samoa, Tonga, and in New Caledonia. Astonishingly, one humpback whale genetically identified at Moorea was later sampled in Columbia, South America.

Dr. Poole’s greatest conservation success occurred on 13 May 2002 when French Polynesia’s government created a dolphin and whale sanctuary throughout the entire Exclusive Economic Zone, making it the largest such sanctuary in the South Pacific. Dr. Poole was the author of the proposition to create the sanctuary and was the author of the draft legislation that was later made law. In 2005 the World Wildlife Fund gave its highest accolade, the Gift of the Earth Award, to French Polynesia in recognition of the sanctuary. On World Tourism Day in 2008, the Ministry of the Environment and the GIE Tahiti Tourisme gave Michael a special award for his participation in creating the sanctuary to protect whales and dolphins, and for having pioneered the tourist activity of whale watching in French Polynesia.


Dr Marc

Dr. Marc Oremus
South Pacific Whale Research Consortium
School of Biological Sciences; Laboratory of Molecular Ecology & Evolution
University of Auckland
Dr. Oremus, a French citizen, is an honorary researcher at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and is presently based in New Caledonia where he works with the NGO ‘Operation Cétacés’ on several dolphin and whale projects. A former student of Dr. Poole’s, Marc’s doctorate was based on his research concerning the social structure of several species of dolphins. A large part of this research was conducted in French Polynesia. In 2007 Marc received the award for the best student presentation at the Society for Marine Mammalogy’s meeting in Cape Town, South Africa. His particular interests are the molecular ecology and demography of South Pacific dolphins, and as member of the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium he has conducted research in French Polynesia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Samoa, Tuvalu, and the Solomon Islands. Thus he has a great deal of experience working in isolated tropical regions.



Pamela CarzonRenee Albertson
South Pacific Whale Research Consortium
Marine Mammal Institute
Oregon State University
Renee Albertson, an American citizen and graduate student of Dr. Poole’s, is presently pursuing her doctorate at Oregon State University. In 2009 she completed her second Master’s degree at OSU; her thesis concerned movements of humpback whales between French Polynesia and Antarctica. Renee based her study on Dr. Poole’s photographic and genetic databases, comparing those data with data from other researchers in Antarctica. In addition, for the International Whaling Commission Renee produced an estimate of the number of humpback whales in French Polynesia. In 2010 Renee became a member of the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium. For her doctorate at OSU, she is conducting photographic and genetic research on the social structure and demography of two very poorly understood species of dolphins, rough-toothed dolphins and melon-headed whales.



Pamela Carzon
Groupe d'Etude des Mammiferes Marins
Pamela Carzon, a French citizen based at Rangiroa, is a founding member of the Groupe d'Étude des Mammifères Marins (G.E.M.M.) in French Polynesia. She spent a year in Canada working on fin, blue, and humpback whales with the Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS); she also worked on killer whales with Orcalab in British Columbia. She then participated in a bottlenose dolphin survey at Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea with the Groupe d'Étude des Cétacés de Méditerranée, and in a harbor and grey seal survey with Picardie Nature in France. Pamela presently leads wildlife expeditions with G. E. M. M. and is undertaking a study of the bottlenose dolphins that are resident at Rangiroa.



AlianAlain Portal
Groupe d'Etude des Mammiferes Marins
Alain Portal, a French citizen based at Rangiroa, is a founding member and President of the Groupe d'Étude des Mammifères Marins in French Polynesia. A licensed boat captain with considerable experience working in the Tuamotu Islands, Alain taught sailing in the Mediterranean Sea at Marseille, France, before coming to French Polynesia where he has been sailing for the last 13 years. He also organized a two-year long private expedition in the Red Sea, as well as trekking in the Sahara desert. He regularly rents Sunsail-Moorings catamarans for the G.E.M.M. expeditions. Alain will be captain of the catamaran boat for surveys around the Fakarava Biosphere Reserve and any other islands to the east of Fakarava that time will permit to be surveyed.

Expedition Biosphere

The Moorings is proud to sponsor this marine mammal research and preservation initiative in Fakarava, a region of Tahiti that’s designated by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve.

 Follow their journey;  see videos and photos!

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