UH Hilo’s Pack pays it forward to educate and inspire future whale researchers

Date: Thursday, March 28, 2024
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 932-7669

For Immediate Release

A University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo faculty member will be featured on the PBS Kids series Wild Kratts Monday, April 1, 2024 in an hour-long premier focusing on Hawaiʻi’s humpback whales. “Our Blue and Green World” airs at 3 p.m. HST on PBS Hawaiʻi.

Adam Pack, Ph.D., professor of psychology and biology, who is also founder and director of the UH Hilo Marine Mammal Laboratory and co-founder of the LOHE (Listening Observatory for Hawaiian Ecosystems) Bioacoustics Lab, joins program hosts Chris and Martin Kratt in waters off Maui to showcase Pack’s latest research.

“In February 2023, the Kratt brothers, who are trained zoologists, joined me aboard the vessel Kohola to learn about and film my collaborative humpback whale research with Dr. Marc Lammers, Research Ecologist of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, and Julia Zeh, a graduate student from Syracuse University,” Pack said. “We highlighted our efforts to photograph the undersides of each whale’s tail flukes, which is essentially the fingerprint of each whale, enabling researchers to resight individuals over years and trace their life histories, as well as our work to deploy suction cup acoustic recording tags on whales of different age classes to learn about vocal development of song and other social sounds, as well as whale energetics.

“Days after the filming, I asked students in one of my UH Hilo classes if they had ever heard of Wild Kratts and nearly every hand went up, and those with children chimed in that their kids love the show,” Pack noted. “One of my graduate students added that as a child watching Wild Kratts is what made her want to become a marine biologist.

“I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to study these magnificent giants of the Pacific for 30 years in both their Hawaiian breeding grounds and Alaskan feeding grounds,” he added. “While it is always a privilege to give presentations on our findings at scientific conferences and to the general public, or to have them featured in documentary films, it is truly a special occasion when I can reach young children. Not only do they always get super excited to learn about and experience the whales, they are our best hope to ensure that the whales and their marine habitat continue to be cared for and protected.”

Wild Kratts, now in its seventh season, introduces early-elementary school children to the secret lives of extraordinary animals. The Kratts accomplish this by first introducing each episode with a short live action segment featuring the creature and scientific concepts, and then ask a “What if” question in which they have an animated adventure, and finally returning back to live action.

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