Ocean Alliance is heading out into the Gulf of Mexico for our fifth and final season studying the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on whales. Operation Toxic Gulf 2014 is a joint campaign with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on our research vessel Odyssey.
The effects of this disaster will persist for years to come and it is our mission to collect data so that we can better understand the chronic effects of this disaster and remind the world that the people and wildlife of the Gulf need our attention and support.
MEET THE CREW
Dr. Roger Payne, Founder and President of Ocean Alliance, is best known for his discovery (with Scott McVay) that humpback whales sing songs, and for his theory that the sounds of fin and blue whales can be heard across oceans. He has studied the behavior of whales since 1967 and is founder and President of the Ocean Alliance. His BA degree is from Harvard University, and his Ph.D. from Cornell.
When Ocean Alliance purchased The Odyssey in December 1991 they inherited the engineer, now captain, Bob Wallace. Bob had been working as the engineer and captain of The Odyssey since 1986 when the vessel was a private yacht. For the past three summers Bob has sailed The Odyssey around the Gulf of Mexico for the Ocean Alliance sperm whale research campaigns making this year’s campaign, Operation Toxic Gulf, his fourth research voyage through the gulf.
Eva Hidalgo Pla
Born in Barcelona, Eva joined Sea Shepherd on the Steve Irwin almost four years ago and has been part of campaigns to protect bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean, pilot whales in the Faroe Islands, and saving more than 3,200 whales in Antarctica. Starting as a deckhand, she later became helicopter assistant, part of the small boats crew during action time, and served as Bosun and Bosun’s mate onboard the Steve Irwin. Eva, together with Ocean Alliance, has also coordinated the data collection in Antarctic waters for scientific research, while the journey to protect the whales of the Southern Ocean in Operation Relentless was taking place.
Originally from the UK, Andy Rogan has been a regular presence both at the Ocean Alliance HQ in Gloucester, Massachusetts and on the seas as a crew member of the RV Odyssey since 2011. Holding an MSc in animal behavior he is particularly interested in the behavioral ecology of apex predators such as marine mammals and sharks, and their roles in maintaining healthy ocean environments. This year, with the help of scientists from Sea Shepherd, he is hoping to fully utilize the unique research capabilities of the RV Odyssey, and expand the scientific program to include behavioral and acoustic data on the marine mammals of the Gulf of Mexico.
Erwin Vermeulen has been working for more than twenty years at sea. During his leaves, he spent his time traveling around the world to a growing realization that the natural beauty that he visited also needed protection. Since then, he has combined his job as chief engineer on commercial ships with volunteering for Sea Shepherd. Erwin has participated in campaigns in the Southern Ocean, the Mediterranean, the Faroe Islands, Taiji, Japan and along the Columbia River, USA. In addition, he helps as needed on ship management and repairs. He is honoured to be part of the Operation Toxic Gulf campaign on the research vessel Odyssey for the second time.
Konrad is a Netherlands-based activist, environmentalist and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society volunteer. Inspired by the work of activists in the field, and determined to do something to protect life in the oceans, he has worked on campaigns in Australia and as a Cove Guardian in Japan exposing the Taiji dolphin drive and slaughter. Konrad hopes to show other how they can make a difference against all odds.
Harry is the IT Director at ARIS Solutions, a nonprofit serving disabled Vermonters and their caregivers. From 2000-2007, Harry served as IT consultant to Ocean Alliance president and founder Dr. Roger Payne at his home office in Vermont. That period coincided with the Voyage of the Odyssey (2000-2005), and Roger's descriptions of the ship, its mission, and his adventures at sea inspired Harry to become a sailor. The more Harry sailed, the more aware he became of the fragile ecosystems he was sailing through. He is concerned about how polluted waterways threaten the species who live in them as well as human health. Harry has compiled a bucket list of traditional sailing vessels with environmental or humanitarian missions that he supports and would like to crew on. The Odyssey was at the top of the list, so crewing on her now is the fulfillment of a 14-year-old dream!
In 1987, while travelling with Iain Kerr in Patagonia, John Atkinson was introduced to Dr. Roger Payne. John assisted in an aerial photographic survey of the local population of endangered Southern Right whales and the following year, he took over the role of primary aerial photographer. John has participated in numerous documentary and research expeditions around the world.
Iain met Roger Payne at his whale camp in Argentina in the 1980’s and has worked with him ever since. Starting as a volunteer, Iain led expeditions on a shared research vessel the Siben. He then found and procured the Odyssey, refitting it as a dedicated off-shore research vessel. Following expeditions in the Galapagos, Costa Rica and Alaska, Iain fulfilled Roger’s wish of a global expedition to gather baseline data on the concentrations and effects of environmental toxicants on whales in the world’s oceans (Voyage of the Odyssey 2000-2005). In 2008 Iain secured the purchase of the iconic Tarr and Wonson Paint Factory in Gloucester, MA as an oceanographic research and education center and the new headquarters of Ocean Alliance. For the last five years he has led the Odyssey expeditions to the Gulf of Mexico to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on whales.
Dan joined the final leg of the 2013 Operation Toxic Gulf expedition and ever since has been a mainstay of the RV Odyssey’s crew. His unique ability to seemingly repair any machine with any tool has made him an important cog in the Odyssey machine. When not at sea, Dan is an accomplished professional photographer who has been published in magazines and newspapers and continues to work out of his home of Pensacola, Florida. Living within a few miles of one of the coastal areas hit hardest by the 2010 oil spill, this campaign has an extremely personal meaning to Dan.
Eliza calls herself a communicator for the good stuff. Her belief in the power of film and photography for animal issues was sparked by a combined degree in Animal Science and Creative Arts, which she completed at Melbourne University in 2009. In 2010 she went on to complete a Masters in Science Communication in Documentary Film at Otago University in New Zealand. Later that year Eliza moved back to Melbourne and co-founded an organization called Fair Projects, which offered affordable media and communications to not-for-profits. She was asked aboard the M/Y Steve Irwin to do the media for Operation Kimberley Miinimbi and she never left. Operation Toxic Gulf will be her 5th Sea Shepherd campaign and her second time in the Gulf working together with Ocean Alliance.
Marc is a professional chef who calls London home. Having grown up in South Africa, summers on the South coast spent in the waves and lagoons and family vacations to the beautiful wildlife and nature reserves have all fostered a deep affinity towards animals, both on land and at sea. Being quick and impulsive to stand up for those who don’t have a voice, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was a natural choice as he put his career on hold to be the change he wants to see in the world. .
Randy is from Massachusetts and will be studying at the University of Montana next fall majoring in wildlife biology and forestry. He is a three Palm Eagle Scout and assistant scoutmaster, a colonial reenactor and musician playing the bass drum, and a member of the Lexington Minutemen and the 1812 Marines aboard the USS constitution. Randy participates in cross country track and lacrosse as well as performing arts. He has also been an active member of the Envirothon team at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School.
Sarah is from Melbourne, Australia and her life-long love for the oceans ld her to join Sea Shepherd in 2011. Operation Toxic Gulf is Sarah's second Sea Shepherd campaign, following Operation Kimberley Minimibi in 2012 where she served as a Quartermaster aboard the Steve Irwin, conducting population and behavioral surveys and collecting data and photo ID's of whales and dolphins, including her most beloved orcas.
Dylan is Iain and Amy Kerr’s daughter. She has grown up on the ocean and exploring the world with her family. She has been to 13 countries, and her first trip on the Odyssey was in Greece when she was 3. She can’t wait to be back on the Odyssey but this time as a crewmember. She is homeschooled and going into the 8th grade. She is an aspiring actress with credits such as Cinderella in Cinderella, Peter Pan in Peter Pan, and Judas in Godspell.
John brings to the OA team his 20 years of experience as a master prototype engineer in the fields of aerospace technologies and product development. Keeping true to OA's mission of being on the leading edge of technology, John melds his passion for oceanographic research and conservation with his engineering skills to aid in the development of benign techniques of obtaining specimens.