Our Team, Collaborators and Advisors
Katherina Audley, Founder/Director, has participated in whale research projects around the world since 1997, and has 5 years’ working in the Research and Evaluation department at San Francisco’s Exploratorium. A travel writer and photographer since 1995, Katherina has a 22-year history with her study region in Mexico. Katherina is a National Geographic Explorer and guest blogger for National Geographic’s Ocean Voices column. Katherina serves as Information and Technology Manager for the Society of Marine Mammalogy, and sits on their Education, Social Media and Communication Committees. She also provides advice on communication strategy to the International Committee for Marine Mammal Protected Areas and the IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Area Task Force. As founder and director of WGRP, she is responsible for overseeing all activities, data collection, reporting, cataloging, hiring and recruitment, and community outreach. Contact Katherina at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrea Jacqueline García Chávez, Education Director, holds a BS in Biology from Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico with a focus on boat/humpback whale interactions in Banderas Bay and is an Early Career National Geographic Explorer. An excellent whale spotter and an equally gifted teacher, she is a biology teacher for the most esteemed private high school in Zihuatanejo when she is not working in the field and teaching youth with WGRP.
Arturo Mellín Mandujano, Lead Captain, is head of the tourism coop in Barra de Potosí. In addition to serving as lead captain with WoG since its launch in 2013, Arturo owns a kayak rental company, runs his family restaurant, is a trained bird and whale watching guide. Arturo co-led a group of 14 community members on a series of learning exchanges between Baja California Sur and Barra de Potosí in 2018-2019 and continues to champion marine conservation efforts in the region regionwide.
Barra de Potosí native, Avimael Cadena, joined Whales of Guerrero in 2018 and is our team documentarist, naturalist, educator and community organizer. When he is not working with locals to connect them through nature through collaborative storytelling and explorations, he is working as an actor and creator of his own video productions. Avimael is currently committed to germinating and replanting endangered mangroves in Barra de Potosí’s lagoon with the local children, overseeing a community-driven garbage reduction program, teaching students region-wide about local ecosystems, and facilitating the creation of new signage and public art works throughout the village.
Raúl Ramirez Barragan, field researcher and educator, is equal parts skilled marine biologist, passionate conservationist and dedicated educator. He led our team to reduce our plastic use footprint to almost zero when he joined us in 2017 and is the mastermind behind many of our excellent educational presentations. When the whales have left for their summer feeding grounds, Raúl turns his focus to ongoing environmental education programs and to helping to maintain our fluke catalog and to advance our humpback whale, rough toothed dolphin and bottlenose dolphin research and analysis. Raúl also oversees much of the administration of our region as a safe whale watching zone and works to ensure that our programs and efforts are integrated into the fabric of the local and national government and institutions.
Scientist and educator, Eric Angel Ramos, is our drone and dolphin expert. He also works with our Oceanic Society expeditioners to get them involved with the science behind our project. Eric has taught our safe dolphin watch workshops and is passionate about connecting local people, visitors and school kids with our marine wildlife.
Project Partners, Advisors and Visiting Scientists
Pablo is President of Biotropicos A.C., a non-profit focused on the preservation and protection of the region of Playa Blanca, Guerrero, Mexico, founder of the Municipal Institute of Zihuatanejo Ecology, and owner of Adventours, a local ecotourism outfit in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo. Most recently, Pablo was instrumental in the official designation of Parque El Limón, an 86 hectare sanctuary as an officially protected area between the twin cities of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. Pablo Mendizábal brings together the Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo community to help us generate awareness about our work and participates in the safe whale watch training program to teach safe whale watch practices to guides and boat operators in Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo.
Mari Smultea, Ph.D. has over 34 years of experience studying the effects of human-related activities on primarily marine mammals and sea turtles (but also other marine and terrestrial species). Mari specializes in assessing effects of underwater sound on marine animals. Mari has extensive experience in permitting; NEPA, ESA and MMPA regulations; regulatory agency consultation; habitat management and enhancement; and mitigation and monitoring. She has >15,000 hours of related field experience, much of it in the Pacific and Arctic (e.g., Hawaii, Alaska, and the Eastern Tropical Pacific), but also in more distant locales, such as Australia and the Antarctic region. Mari Smultea, PhD. also has a strong commitment to giving back to the community, as well as helping the environment. She is of course very passionate about marine mammals and enjoys being with them in their natural environment, be it from a boat or diving below the water’s surface to study their behavior. She especially enjoys working with non-profit groups – sharing her experience and expertise with those who might not otherwise be able to afford her invaluable contributions – to save the animals and their world that she cares about so deeply.
Sally Mizroch, M.Sc. developed and manages the North Pacific humpback whale fluke photo-identification collection at NOAA’s National Marine Mammal Laboratory. Sally invented the computer-assisted matching system that allows fast matching of the more than 30,000 photos in the flukes photo collection, which contains photos dating back to 1966. As part of her work on photo-identification, she has developed many protocols for integrating data into large data base sand has taken a lead role in the transition from film to digital photography. She has used both whaling and photo-identification data to estimate vital rates of many cetacean species and populations. She is particularly interested in large mammal population dynamics and reproductive biology and enjoys fostering large-scale collaborative research which crosses national boundaries to encompass the entire range and ecosystem of each whale species she studies. Sally has worked at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center for her entire scientific career. She began studying Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska ground fish in the Center’s Resource Ecology and Fisheries Management Division in 1977, and in 1979 she transferred to NMML to study vital rates of Antarctic baleen whales, which were still being hunted commercially at the time. She was a member of the U.S. delegation to the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee from 1980 to 1988. Some of her analyses as a young scientist provided direct scientific support for the whaling moratorium that was initiated in 1986. In 1986, she developed the humpback whale matching system and started the centralized North Pacific humpback whale flukes photo database. Sally received a B.A. in environmental studies/biology at Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio in 1975. She received her M.S. in fisheries from the University of Washington in 1983 under the supervision of Professor Doug Chapman. She has completed advanced classes in statistical sampling and analysis at both the University of Washington and at Colorado State University.
Andrew Wex, M.A. is an Oregon-based high school science teacher with a charter program on marine biology. He is the kind of teacher who nurtures a deep and lifelong love of nature and science in his students, in part due to the field work intensive exposure he gives his students and in part due to his winning combination of music, humor and demonstrated curiosity as a teaching method. Andy brought whale and krill songs to Barra de Potosí during our first two seasons in the field and continues to connect his students with our region via an intercultural online exchange between his students and the science students at a high school in Zihuatanejo.
Astrid Frisch-Jordan is the mastermind behind the fluke ID catalog developed for Banderas Bay over the past 23+ years. She has also been instrumental in cultivating a local ethos of responsibility among the boat operators toward whales, runs the whale disentanglement network for Mexico and teaches safe boat practices to tour guide operators. Astrid provides our team with support and guidance on everything from study design and strategy to boat operations to fluke identification techniques.
Luis Medrano Gonzalez, Ph.D. An esteemed Professor of Evolutionary Biology in the Faculty of Sciences at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City, Dr. Luis Medrano is instrumental in connecting us with graduate students and early career marine mammal scientists who are looking for opportunities to develop their field research skills and also provides us with feedback and guidance on our study protocol and practices.
Jorge Urban-Ramirez coordinates the Marine Mammal Research Program at the University of Baja California Sur in La Paz, Mexico. He is also on the Mexican delegation to the IWC. Dr. Urbán brings together the humpback whale research scientists along the entire length of the Pacific Coast of Mexico to share and collaborate with our research efforts and helps us to create a more complete big picture understanding of how the whales in Guerrero move along and use the Mexican coast as breeding and calving habitat.
Our key local partners and collaborators are: The Fishing, Tourism, Artesanías and Restaurant Cooperatives of Barra de Potosí; Playa Viva; La Raiz de la Tierra; Casita Ecovegana; Eco Tianguis Sanka; Oficina de Convenciones y Visitantes de Ixtapa Zihuatanejo; Department of Tourism & Department of Ecology, Guerrero; Department of Fishing, Zihuatanejo; Sportfishing Cooperative, Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa
Our national advisors and collaborators include: FMCN; CONANP; PROFEPA; SEMARNAT; Cine Hermitano; Mares Mexicano; Sustenta; and EDF.
We partner internationally with: Monterey Bay Aquarium; National Geographic; USFWS; Cascadia Research Collective; and NOAA.
We co-host expeditions with SEE Turtles in Guerrero. See this year’s citizen science research opportunities here.
We keep up to date on our whale resightings thanks to our friends at Happywhale and all of the scientists and whale aficionados who upload their fluke shots to Happywhale. Check out our page on Happywhale to find out where our whales have been !