Alex at sea

Alex Zerbini

  • Senior Research Scientist
  • Education:
    • B.Sc. in Biological Oceanography, University of Rio Grande, Brazil (1992)
    • M.Sc. in Zoology, University of São Paulo, Brazil (1998)
    • Ph.D. in Aquatic and Fisheries Science, University of Washington (2006)
  • Email:
  • Phone:
    • 206-526-4511
  • Location:
    • Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA

Alex’s interests in marine mammal conservation emerged early in life and his career started in his home country of Brazil after receiving a B.Sc. degree in Biological Oceanography and a M. Sc. degree in Zoology. Alex moved to Seattle in 1999 to attend the graduate program at UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. His Ph.D. research was developed at the Marine Mammal Laboratory at NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center and focused on cetacean abundance estimation methods.

Marine mammal population biology, assessment and management is at the core of Alex’s research interests. He has been developing studies to assess abundance and distribution, movements, migratory routes, migratory destinations and habitat use using survey and telemetry methods. This work includes design and implementation of aerial and vessel surveys for data collection and deployment of telemetry instruments. He also uses quantitative techniques to compute cetacean abundance and trends, to assess population status through population dynamics modeling, and to develop movement and habitat models. Alex’s has become a worldwide leading expert on the development and application of satellite telemetry technology for large cetaceans. This work has been highly collaborative, has involved a broad team of experts in cetacean biology, engineering and tag manufacturing, and has led to development of robust and safe methods to track whales at sea.

Alex has also served in many committees and international organizations related to wildlife research and conservation. He has been a member of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) since 2000 and has convened the Committee’s Working Group to Review Sanctuaries and Sanctuary Proposals (2002-2004, 2016-2017), the Sub-Committee on Southern Hemisphere Whale Stocks (2005-2011) and the Standing Working Group on Abundance, Stock Status and International Cruises (2018-present). Alex was recently nominated Vice-Chair of the IWC Scientific Committee for a three-year term. Alex is a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Cetacean Specialist Group and has been involved in assessments of the status of various cetacean populations for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. He is also a member of the World Wildlife Fund advisory board on river dolphins, and of the board of directors of the Society for Marine Mammalogy and the Latin American Society for Aquatic Mammals. Alex also has broad experience with Animal Care and Use Committees, having served as a member of the IACUC Committee of non-profit, research organizations such as Cascadia Research Collective and Marine Ecology and Telemetry Research.

Selected publications

Zerbini, A.N., Andriolo, A., Heide-Jørgensen, M.P., Pizzorno, J.L., Maia, Y.G., VanBlaricom, G.R., DeMaster, D.P., Simões-Lopes, P.C., Moreira, S. and Bethlem, C.P. 2006. Satellite-monitored movements of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the Southwest Atlantic Ocean. Marine Ecology Progress Series 313: 295-304.

Zerbini, A.N., Waite, J.M., Laake, J.L. and Wade, P.R. 2006. Abundance, trends and distribution of large baleen whales in western Alaska and the Central Aleutian Islands. Deep Sea Research Part I 53: 1772-1790. DOI: 10.1016/j.dsr.2006.08.009

Zerbini, A.N., Waite, J.M., Durban, J.W., LeDuc, R., Dahlheim, M.E. and Wade, P.R. 2007. Estimating abundance of killer whales in the nearshore waters of the Gulf of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands using line transect sampling. Marine Biology 150(5): 1033-1045. DOI: 10.1007/s00227-006-0347-8

Zerbini, A.N., Clapham, P.J. and Wade, P.R. 2010. Assessing plausible rates of population growth in humpback whales from life-history data. Marine Biology. DOI: 10.1007/s00227-010-1403-y.

Zerbini, A.N., Baumgartner, M.F., Kennedy, A.S., Rone, B.K., Wade, P.R. and Clapham, P.J. 2015. Space-Use Patterns of Endangered North Pacific Right Whales (Eubalaena japonica) in the Bering Sea. Marine Ecology Progress Series 532: 269-281. doi: 10.3354/meps11366.

Moore, M. and Zerbini, A.N. 2017. Dolphin blubber shear over axial muscle: implications for rigid trans-dermal intramuscular tracking tag trauma in large whales. Journal of Experimental Biology. 220: 3717-3723. DOI: 10.1242/jeb.165282.

Falcone, E., Schorr, G., Watwood, S., DeRuiter, S., Zerbini, A.N., Andrews, R., Morrissey, R. and Moretti, D. 2017. Behavioural responses of satellite-tagged Cuvier’s beaked whales to two types of military sonar. Royal Society Open Science 4: 170629.

Horton, T.W., Hauser, N., Zerbini, A.N., Francis, M.P., Domeier, M.L., Andriolo, A., Costa, D.P., Robinson, P.W., Duffy, C.A., Nasby-Lucas, N., Holdaway, R.N. 2017. Route Fidelity During Marine Megafauna Migration. Frontiers in Marine Science 4, article 422. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2017.00422.

Norman, S.A., Flynn, K.R., Zerbini, A.N., Gulland, F.M.D., Moore, M., Raverty, S., Rotstein, D., Mate, B.R., Hayslip, C., Gendron, D., Sears, R., Douglas, A. and Calambokidis, J. 2018. Assessment of wound healing of tagged gray (Eschrichtius robustus) and blue (Balaenoptera musculus) whales in the eastern North Pacific using long term series of photographs. Marine Mammal Science 34(1): 27-53. DOI: 10.1111/mms.12443.

Riekkola, L., Zerbini, A.N., Andrews, O., Andrews-Goff, V., Scott Baker, C., Chandler, D., Childerhouse, S., Clapham, P., Dodemont, R., Donnely, D., Double, M., Friedlaender, A., Gallego, R., Garrigue, C., Gibbs, N., Hauser, N., Ivashchenko, I., Jarman, S., Lindsay, R., Pallin, L., Poole, M., Robbins, J., Schmitt, N., Steel, D., Tremlett, J., Vindenes, S., Ward, J. and Constantine, R. 2018. Application of a multi-disciplinary approach to reveal population structure and Southern Ocean feeding grounds of humpback whales. Ecologial Indicators 89: 455-465. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2018.02.030.

Sucunza, F., Danilewicz, D., Cremer, M., Andriolo, A. and Zerbini, A.N. 2018. Refining estimates of availability bias to improve assessments of the conservation status of an endangered dolphin. PLoS ONE 13(3): e0194213.

Zerbini, A.N., Adams, G., Best, J., Clapham, P.J., Jackson, J.A. and Punt A.E. 2019. Assessing the Recovery of an Antarctic Predator from Historical Exploitation. Royal Society Open Science 6 (10): 190368 DOI: 10.1098/rsos.190368

Andrews, R.D., Baird, R.W., Calambokidis, J., Goertz, C.E.C, Gulland, F.M.D., Heide-Jørgensen, M.P., Hooker, S.K., Johnson, M., Mate, B., Mitani, Y., Nowacek, D., Owen, K., Quakenbush, L.T., Raverty, S., Robbins, J., Schorr, G., Shpak, O.V., Townsend, F.I., Jr., Uhart, M., Wells, R.S. and Zerbini, A.N. 2019. Best Practices Guidelines for Cetacean Tagging. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 20: 27-66.

Sucunza, F., Danilewicz, D., Andriolo, A., Azevedo, A. Secchi, E.R. and Zerbini, A.N. 2020. Distribution, habitat use, and abundance of the endangered franciscana in southeastern and southern Brazil. Marine Mammal Science 36(2): 421-435.

Derville, S., Torres, L.G., Zerbini, A.N., Oremus, M. and Garrigue, C. 2020. Horizontal and vertical movements of humpback whales inform the use of critical pelagic habitats in the western South Pacific. Scientific Reports 10(1): 4871.