Dr. Adam A. Pack

Dr. Adam A. Pack

Dr. Pack on a boatDr. Adam Pack preparing to document the underwater behavior of humpback whales in Hawaiʻi

Aloha! I am Dr. Adam A. Pack, a Full Professor at University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo (UH Hilo) with a joint appointment in the Departments of Psychology and Biology. I am the current chair of the Psychology Department, a cooperating faculty member of UH Hilo’s Master of Science Degree Program in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science, and the co-creator of the UH Hilo LOHE Bioacoustics Laboratory.

Also, I am the former chair of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council, an associate editor of the journal Marine Mammal Science, and co-founder and current president and director of The Dolphin Institute, a not-for-profit Hawaiʻi-based organization dedicated to dolphins and whales through education, research and conservation.

I was featured in a recent interview with NOAA fisheries, discussing my work with whales.

My work with humpback whales has recently been featured in two PBS Television Documentaries "Humback Whale Health" and Mystery of the Humpback Whale Song" for the PBS series "Changing Seas". Humpback Whale Health showcases a collaborative effort with the Marine Mammal Research Program at Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, Pacific Whale Foundation, Alaska Whale Foundation, University of Alaska, Fairbanks and Hawaii Pacific University to understand how humpback whale body condition and biomarkers vary across the whale's migratory cycle between the Hawaiian breeding grounds and Alaskan feeding grounds. Mystery of the Humpback Whale Song presents my lab's collaborative research with Dr. Marc Lammers of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary to investigate whether the acoustic characteristics of each male humpback whale song reflects that singer’s fitness and fertility. This film also highlights our work studying the association of humpback whale energetics, dive patterns, acoustics and behavior by deploying suction cup acoustic and data recorders on humpback whales in different behavioral roles.

Research Focuses

My research program focuses on scientific studies of marine mammal behavioral ecology and cognition. For more than 30 years, I have been conducting research on dolphin sensory perception, cognition and communication abilities as well as humpback whale social organization and habitat use, migratory and residency patterns, social behavior and communication systems in the Hawaiian breeding grounds and Alaska feeding grounds. I have also studied learning and memory in California sea lions and habitat use in Hawaiian spinner dolphins. During summer months, I work collaboratively with Dr. Denise Herzing of the Wild Dolphin Project to study Atlantic spotted dolphins and bottlenose dolphins in the Bahamas. Over the course of my research career, I have published over 60 papers, book chapters and reports and given over 80 presentations and invited addresses.

Dr. Adam Pack prepares to measure a female humpback whale using videogrammetry in waters off MauiDr. Adam Pack prepares to measure a female humpback whale using videogrammetry in waters off Maui

My findings have been featured in newspapers such as the New York Times, in magazines such as the Economist and National Wildlife and in television documentaries such as National Geographic’s Humpbacks: Inside the Pod and PBS’s Dolphins with Robin Williams. My current research uses suction cup acoustic tags to address questions about humpback whale communication, tail fluke identification photographs and GIS to investigate humpback whale habitat use, and a videogrammetric technique to understand the role of individual body size in the social organization of humpback whales.

Course Offerings

At UH Hilo, I teach undergraduate students at all levels and work with graduate students in UH Hilo’s TCBES program. I am also an affiliate and cooperating faculty at UH Manoa and work with graduate students there in the Psychology and Biology Departments and in the Marine Science Graduate Program. My undergraduate course offerings at UH Hilo currently include:

  • PSY 213 Statistical Techniques (4)
  • PSY 314 Learning & Motivation (3)
  • PSY 436 Animal Cognition (3)
  • PSY 437 Marine Mammal Behavior (3)
  • PSY 438 Child Cognition (3)

Awards and Honors

  • 2017: Award Recipient: University of Hawaii Board of Regents (BOR) Award for Excellence in Teaching, UH Hilo
  • 2008: Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii 15-year Service Award
  • 1999: Award Co-recipient: 1998 American Psychological Association Division 6’s F.A. Beach Comparative Psychology Award for best paper published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology in 1998 “Seeing through sound: Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) perceive the spatial structure of objects through echolocation” (Herman, Pack, Hoffmann-Kuhnt)

Pack Marine Mammal Laboratory

In 2008, I established the University of Hawaiʻi Pack Marine Mammal Laboratory. The Laboratory focuses on studies of the behavior and biology of marine mammals including those present in Hawaiian waters. Both graduate and undergraduate students participate in data collection and analysis.

Please contact Adam Pack for more information. Visit the Pack Marine Mammal Lab site.