Dr Ingrid N. Visser – Founder & Principal Scientist
Born in New Zealand, Dr Visser remains the only researcher specializing in orca in New Zealand waters.
Her research officially began in 1992 when she embarked on her life-long dream to study the orca. Since then she has worked with orca not only around New Zealand, but also in the waters of Antarctica, Argentina and Papua New Guinea.
Whilst travelling aboard eco-tourism ships or on private expeditions, she has also contributed to orca research projects in the Kamchatka region of Russia; Washington, Alaska and British Colombia off North America as well as Iceland (where she worked with the team releasing “Keiko” the star of the Free Willy movies).
Her work has appeared in various magazines and on numerous documentaries made for TV. She has written two children’s books as well as an autobiography “Swimming with Orca” which was a finalist in the 2005 NZ Montana Book Awards. Since the tragic death of the trainer at SeaWorld in Florida, Ingrid has been actively speaking out for orca held in captivity. She is a co-founder of the Free Morgan Foundation, working to raise awareness of her plight as she is used commercially at the entertainment theme park Loro Parque, in Spain.
Dr Visser’s research does not receive Government or University funding, but is run through the non-profit, Orca Research Trust, a New Zealand registered Charity.
Dedicated to protecting the orca, Dr Visser believes in making science ‘consumable’ for the general public and as such she is often seen out in the community giving talks about these incredible apex predators.
The Orca Research Trust is run primarily by Dr Ingrid Visser. She occasionally receives assistance from the other crew members featured here (& don’t forget to check out the Orca Research Boat).
Terry Hardie – Researcher, Trustee
Born in South Africa, Terry immigrated to New Zealand as a youngster and expanded on his interest in the computer sciences. Founding one of the first publicly-accessible email companies in New Zealand, he was soon head-hunted to the United States of America where he currently resides.
Terry’s skills in the electronic / IT arena makes him a valuable asset to a number of orca research projects. For the New Zealand based Orca Research Trust, he is not only a Trustee, but also a valued field researcher. Utilizing various types of equipment (e.g., HD cameras, hydrophones) Terry’s contribution to the research has enabled us to gain insights into these incredibly adapted animals.
He is a co-founder of the Free Morgan Foundation, working to raise awareness of her plight as she is used commercially at the entertainment theme park Loro Parque, in Spain.
As an avid photographer and videographer, images taken by Terry, for the Orca Research Trust, have been published around the world and are continually used to promote the Trusts’ mission statement : “To Protect Orca & their Habitat, through Conservation, Education & Scientific Research.”
Wendy Turner – Research Assistant
Starting out as a volunteer, Wendy has now been involved with the Orca Research Trust since 2008 when she helped with the release of the young orca Rakey-Cousteau. Wendy has since been involved in the rescue of many pilot whales as well as the disentanglement of a humpback whale wrapped in a net.
With her many boat handling certifications Wendy has become a vital part of the on-water team and was the key boat driver and helped Dr Visser during the filming of the BBC/Discovery Channel/ Big Wave documentary which has screened around the world.
Sarah Dwyer – Researcher
Having grown up mainly in the UK and Ireland, Sarah completed her undergraduate studies at the University of St Andrews, Scotland where she graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Marine and Environmental Biology.
She then moved to New Zealand in 2006. Sarah began volunteering for the Orca Research Trust in 2007 and gained valuable field-work experience with Dr Visser through a number of projects including cetacean survey’s in Papua New Guinea and providing support during the filming of the documentary, ‘Killer Whales’, which features the New Zealand Orca and the Orca Research Trust.
After working with Dr Visser for over two years Sarah has since completed her PhD at Massey University, Auckland under the Coastal-Marine Research Group as part of the New Zealand Common Dolphin Project (NZCDP). While she was out in the field conducting her PhD research investigating the distribution, density and fine scale habitat use of common dolphins (Delphinus sp.) in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand, Sarah continued to collect data for the Orca Research Trust.
Kate Norton – Teacher
In 2007 Kate came to work with the Orca Research Trust during a one-year teacher fellowship. She has been a primary school teacher since 1999 and has helped to develop ideas and presentations for younger children which she now uses in her classroom. She collaborated with Ingrid to write a book about Nobby the orca, one of the many she met during her year working with the Orca Research Trust.
Kate continues to work closely with Ingrid and the orca. She believes in providing children with factual information so they gain an interest in the learning process. Kate has also visited Punta Norte Orca Research in Argentina, of which Ingrid is a co-founder, the location famous for the orca coming on to the beach to take sea-lion pups. She and Ingrid co-authored the children’s book Nobby the Orca.
Steve Hathaway – Underwater Cameraman
Since 2008 Steve has filmed in association with the Orca Research Trust. Some of his footage was used for Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures documentary “The call of the killer whale” and Discovery Channel’s “Killer Whales”. He was also the underwater cameraman for the BBC documentary “The woman that swims with killer whales”.
Steve is a contract cameraman, specializing in underwater filming. To him, however, it is more than a job to him …. it’s his passion and a venue for him to show the underwater world he loves.
Juan Copello – Researcher, Consultant
Juan lives and conducts most of his research at the famous Punta Norte site, where the orca come onto the beach to take sea lion pups. He grew up on the farm which is home to these incredible beaches and has observed these orca since he was a child.
Juan also conducts eco-tours to view the orca of Punta Norte. He and Ingrid have worked together to study the orca in the waters of New Zealand and along the coastline of Argentina for many years now.
Juan periodically returns to New Zealand to assist with orca research and consult with film crews.
Andy Casagrande – Film Maker, Cameraman & Consultant
Andy Brandy Casagrande IV aka (ABC4) is a 2 x Emmy Award winning cinematographer, field producer & television presenter specializing in blue-chip wildlife documentaries around the world. His work has included king cobras & killer whales, great whites sharks & polar bears, Andy’s innovative cinematography & unorthodox camera techniques are helping revolutionize the way the world sees & perceives wildlife. From super-slow motion & thermal-infrared to night-vision & remote-controlled spy-cams, Andy shoots with the most advanced camera technologies on the planet and continues to push the boundaries of wildlife film making to shed new light & perspective into the hidden lives of the planet’s most feared & misunderstood predators. With more than 100 wildlife films credits to his name Andy has shot & produced films for the world’s top television networks including National Geographic, BBC, Discovery, ABC, NBC, CBS, Animal Planet, etc. He regularly consults with the Orca Research Team and has helped us capture some incredible footage of the orca.