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Maddalena Bearzi has studied the ecology and conservation of marine mammals for over twenty-five years. She is President and Co-founder of the Ocean Conservation Society, and Co-author of Beautiful Minds: The Parallel Lives of Great Apes and Dolphins (Harvard University Press, 2008). She also works as a photo-journalist and blogger for several publications. Her most recent book is Dolphin Confidential: Confessions of a Field Biologist (Chicago University Press, 2012).

Look Into This Dolphin’s Eyes and Tell Me That’s Not Grief!

By Maddalena Bearzi Although we live thousands of miles and an ocean apart, my brother Giovanni and I share not only the same bloodline but also a passion for dolphins. For more than two decades, both of us have conducted scientific and conservation research on marine mammals in the wild; Gio in the waters of…

The Dark Era of Orca Shows is Ending

By Maddalena Bearzi There is light at the end of the tunnel. As Tilikum, the captive killer whale at the focus of the documentary Blackfish, is approaching death from an untreatable drug-resistant lung infection, SeaWorld just announced it will end all orca breeding. No more orcas will be kept in any of their new parks…

Flipper, Where Art Thou? Tracking Dolphins Up and Down the Coast

By Maddalena Bearzi Have you ever wondered where dolphins go after you get a glimpse of them as they surf a wave or catch a bow-ride off your boat? I surely did. Bottlenose dolphins off California, one of the marine mammal species I’ve studied in this stretch of the Pacific Ocean for almost two decades…

Santa Barbara Oil Spill: What Will We Learn?

A month ago, KPPC journalist Sanden Totten joined me on the Ocean Conservation Society boat during one of our regular marine mammal surveys that my research team and I conduct off Southern California. He wanted to discuss and observe first hand the increasing presence of skin lesions and physical deformities that are plaguing common bottlenose…

Meet the Dolphin Society

Most dolphins are social animals and, like great apes and humans, derive more advantages than disadvantages from living in a group. In schools, a dolphin can attain protection from predators, ease of finding food and a convenient place to meet fertile sexual partners.

Unusual Encounters: Sea Turtles Roaming Off Los Angeles

“Balloon straight ahead” one of my researchers tells the captain while leaning forward from the bow of our boat. We are so accustomed to find plastic debris during our dolphin surveys off Los Angeles, California, that a party balloon is the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind when we come across something round-shaped floating…

Are You Kidding? Larger Tanks Won’t Cut it for Killer Whales

Once again Sea World is missing the point. The aquatic entertainment enterprise just doesn’t seem to give up despite documentaries like Blackfish and a growing public awareness that keeping cetaceans in captivity is cruel and morally wrong. Even Wall Street is turning its back on the company. Now, with a new and grandiose multi-million dollar plan for expanding their killer whale tanks, Sea World is taking the “logical” next step to resurrect itself.

They Aren’t Always Smiling: Skin Lesions and Deformities Plague Wild Dolphins

Dolphins are top predators, meaning they feed at the top of the food chain. When chemical pollutants settle into seafloor sediments, they are absorbed by a variety of small organisms. Some of these creatures end up in the stomachs of bottom feeders, which, in turn, accumulate higher concentrations of the same contaminants in their body…

Dolphins Guide Scientists to Rescue Suicidal Girl

One day, my research team and I were following a school of bottlenose dolphins near shore as we do on a regular basis in the waters off Los Angeles, California. We just wrapped up our photo-identification work and were moving on to take video of dolphin social interactions and enter data on behavior. The dolphins…

How to View Marine Mammals Responsibly

The waters off Southern California have been the platform for my field research on whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals for almost two decades.  Lately, however, something has changed in the occurrence of these animals in my ocean “backyard.” I have never seen such a diversity and abundance of cetaceans as in recent times. In…

Debunking Captivity: 3 Reasons Not to Keep Dolphins in a Tank

I have spent much time in the company of wild dolphins over the last twenty-something years. I’ve built a career following their everyday movements and observing their behavior both from shore and from research boats. When I began my studies, I knew these creatures primarily as the objects of my research but, as the years…

Vanishing Innocents: Fish, Dolphins, and Other Sea Creatures in Troubled Waters

Sardinia has a unique and unforgettable scent, different from any other place I’ve known. It’s the scent of the Mediterranean undergrowth, of junipers and myrtles. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can almost smell it even now, thousands of miles away and many years later. As a young girl, I anxiously waited for…

5 Simple Tips for Communicating Science

New generations of scientists must learn how to widely communicate science to better protect our oceans

Wanna Be a Marine Biologist? Here’s How

“Oh my God! You study dolphins… How cool…!” I can’t begin to say how many times I’ve heard this. It seems what I do is something many people dream about. The adventurous, romantic life of a marine biologist, out in the elements, investigating the lives of these magnificent creatures in the freedom of the vast…

Following Dolphin Flukeprints: A Woman’s Battle to Protect the Animals She Loves

  I’m swimming slowly and alone through crystalline waters beneath a cobalt-blue sky. My skin feels pleasurably numb immersed in this medium. I am totally free, as I turn and dive effortlessly toward the white sandy bottom. I can move as I choose, up and down with the motion of the waves in continuous harmony.…