Ingrid Visser does something no one else on the planet does. She is one of the few people fully devoted to studying killer whales-or orca-and one of the few to ever research these incredible creatures underwater and without the protection of shark cages.
From her home in New Zealand to the South Pacific, the Antarctic, Argentina and Papua New Guinea, this intrepid scientist swims with the top predator in the ocean-who actually eats sharks for breakfast-and connects with them in their own world.
What Dr. Visser has found is a stark commentary on the health of our oceans and the impact of humans on their future. Orcas share one distinct similarity with humans-they eat everybody else and nobody eats them.
Therefore, this apex predator absorbs all the pollutants we have dumped into their habitat. Toxins concentrate further up the food chain so killer whales ingest toxins from their entire diet of jellyfish, dolphins, seals, and even other whales. These high concentrations of poisons are changing the lives of orcas, resulting in reduced calf numbers, higher mortalities, diseases, and cancer.
But, Dr. Visser explains how we can make a difference at the local level such as ensuring that chemicals like paint and garden sprays aren’t poured down storm water drains. Shopping for sustainably harvested fish will also protect the very food sources, which orcas and their prey rely on, are economic and personal choices we can all make.
Ingrid has been featured on The Discovery Channel, TVNZ Natural History, Animal Planet, 60 Minutes, and PBS. Her work has been published in National Geographic, New Zealand Graphic and BBC Wildlife Magazine.
Described as “a marine version of Jane Goodall,” Ingrid’s passion for the protection of orcas and their fragile habitats is clearly illustrated in her photographs and talks. She has been instrumental in rescuing many stranded whales and has witnessed behaviors never previously recorded. Her research was the turning point for the reclassification of this species in New Zealand from “common” to “nationally critical”-the highest threat status animals can achieve in these waters. Dr. Visser’s method of interacting with orcas has provided insights not gained in any other way.
With her quaint “Kiwi” accent from Down Under, Ingrid will take you on a journey of discovery and wonder about these sentient creatures of the deep.