Roger Payne

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Roger Payne "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. His BA degree is from Harvard, and his Ph.D. from Cornell. His PhD dissertation was on how owls can locate mice in total darkness based solely on hearing them move. He was on the faculty of Rockefeller University from 1967-1985 before leaving to found his own institute, Ocean Alliance. Since 1967, he has studied the behavior of whales, leading over 100 expeditions to all oceans and studying every species of baleen whale in the wild. His institute has recently completed the Voyage of the Odyssey, a five-year, around-the-world research expedition to measure pollution levels in the oceans. It resulted in skin samples from 938 sperm whales (obtained by means harmless to the whale). The samples are currently being analyzed for a suite of synthetic, endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), heavy metals, and brominated fire retardants. When complete it will provide the first bioassay of pollutant levels throughout the world’s oceans...

"Payne publishes technical articles and writes for general audiences. One of his articles in National Geographic Magazine contained a phonograph record of whale sounds for which 10.5 million copies were printed (to this day, the largest single print order in the history of the recording industry). His publications include the book, Among Whales (1995) and three recordings: Songs of the Humpback Whale (1970), Deep Voices (1975), and Whales Alive (1989—works composed by whales but arranged and played by humans). He has appeared in many documentary films for television, some of which he has written and/or presented. He co-wrote and co-directed the IMAX film Whales. An award-winning film about Payne’s work, A Life Among Whales, is currently being screened worldwide.

"Payne's honors and awards include: a knighthood in the Netherlands, a MacArthur Fellowship, the similar Lyndhurst Prize Fellowship, The Albert Schweitzer medal of the Animal Welfare Institute (shared with his first wife, Katy Payne), the Joseph Wood Krutch medal of the Humane Society of the U.S., the James Duggan Memorial Award of the American Littoral Society, a United Nations (UNEP) Global 500 Award, and the Emmy for Best Interview, for his interview with Charlie Rose (in One-On-One With Charlie Rose). And most recently, a Lifetime Achievement award from Earthwatch." [1]

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  1. Roger Payne, seachangeinstitute, accessed June 24, 2009.