There is a great deal about whales and other cetaceans that we still do not know, and even more we only know very little about. That's why many researchers and research organisations all over the world are studying aspects of whale biology, ecology, and evolution. This research plays a crucial role in helping us to determine how best to protect and conserve whales and manage the threats affecting their short and long-term survival.

Australian researchers make significant contributions to the ever-growing body of cetacean research, conservation and management.

Here are some examples of Australian whale research projects:

How much whale watching can whales withstand?

Whale and dolphin watching can be an exhilarating, awe-inspiring experience for us, but we don’t know enough about the impact all that watching has on the long-term survival and wellbeing of the animals being watched. It's an interesting issue that researchers at Macquarie University are investigating. The findings of this research will help us ensure that people can continue to enjoy watching whales without harming these amazing animals.

Can we combat the ocean-acidifying effects of climate change with… whale poo?

In research being carried out by the Australian Antarctic Division and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC), scientists are looking at the role which whales, and krill, play in keeping ocean acidity levels low enough to allow ocean life to survive, and thrive. It seems that whale faeces helps absorb carbon dioxide on the sea bed and might just help keep ocean acidity in check.

Why do whales sing?

Whale songs aren't just fun to listen to; this form of communication can help us to understand peak whale migration times, population abundance, seasonal distribution of species and much more.

How many whales, and what types, are found in Australian waters?

Knowing how many whales there are helps to protect them. It is important to know how quickly – or slowly – populations are recovering from the historical effects of whaling. You don’t have to be an academic or scientist to play a role in this research. Find out how you can help by visiting the volunteer page.

Ageing and diet

How old do whales grow to? What is their survival rate? What do whales eat? How much do they eat? These are all vital research questions being studied in Australia and around the world.

Some key research organisations in Australia

  • Sydney Institute of Marine Sciences (SIMS)
  • Australian Marine Mammal Centre
  • Australian Antarctic Division (AAD)
  • Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC)
  • Macquarie University, NSW – Marine Mammal Research Group