UH Hilo Marine Mammal Laboratory

UH Hilo Marine Mammal Laboratory


    Dr. Adam Pack with underwater video camera on Maui in 2016Dr. Adam A. Pack

    I am Dr. Adam A. Pack, Founder and Director of the UH Hilo Marine Mammal Laboratory. I am 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.

    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 and communication in Hawaiian spinner dolphins.

    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. 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 dolphin studies focus on describing the seasonal and diurnal presence, behavior and communication of Hawaiian spinner dolphins off of Hilo Bay, Hawaii. My whale research uses suction cup acoustic recording 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. I also work collaboratively with the Marine Mammal Research Program at University of Hawaii at Manoa, Pacific Whale Foundation, the Atkinson lab at University of Alaska, Fairbanks and the West Lab at Hawaii Pacific University studying humpback whale behavior, health and physiology using a combination of methods involving drones (to measure body condition) and biopsy sampling (to measure steroid hormone levels and examine parameters associated with health). In Summer months, I travel to Alaska to study the whales, and also work collaboratively with Denise Herzing of the Wild Dolphin Project to study Atlantic spotted dolphins and bottlenose dolphins in the Bahamas.


    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 faculty at UH Manoa and work with graduate students there in the Psychology and Biology Departments. My undergraduate course offerings at UH Hilo currently include:

    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 me, Adam Pack for more information.