Operation Toxic Gulf

Meet the Crew

Learn more about the dedicated crew of the Odyssey.

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Roger PayneRoger PaynevideoRoger Payne, PhD

Founder/President, Ocean Alliance
Gloucester, Massachusetts, USA

Roger Payne has an AB from Harvard and a PhD from Cornell. His dissertation was on how barn owls can locate prey solely by hearing it move. However, he is best known for his discoveries that humpback whales sing songs and that the calls of blue and fin whales can carry across oceans. He spent a total of 24 years teaching at Tufts and Rockefeller Universities before founding Ocean Alliance.

He has trained many of the current leaders in whale research, both here and abroad, and pioneered many of the benign research techniques for studying whales (now used in more than 60 countries). Since he began studying whales in 1967 Payne has led over 100 expeditions to all oceans. His research on the behavior of Southern right whales (begun in 1970) is the longest continuous study of any baleen whale based on recognizable individuals. It currently follows over 2300 known individual whales.

Roger PaynePayne’s recent research includes a five-year, around-the-world voyage by his institute’s research vessel, Odyssey, to measure the concentrations of toxic metals and persistent organic pollutants in the skin and blubber of sperm whales. It sampled 955 whales from all oceans. His institute has just completed the third year of a five-year program in the Gulf of Mexico (directed by John Wise, marine toxicologist at the University of Southern Maine) to study the effects on Gulf wildlife of both the oil spilled by BP in 2010 and the chemicals used to disperse it.

Roger PaynePayne has worked tirelessly for the conservation of whales in many international fora, including his long membership on the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission. His extensive scientific and popular writing includes four books, (one titled Among Whales ‘1995’, and four whale records (one, the most successful natural history recording made; another, published as a flexible recording by National Geographic in its magazine remains to this day, at 10.5 million copies, the largest single print order in the history of the recording industry). Over 40 TV documentaries on whales have covered his work, and he is co-writer and co-director of the IMAX film, Whales.

Payne’s many awards include: a knighthood in the Netherlands; a 5-year MacArthur Prize Fellowship; a 3-year, Lyndhurst Foundation Fellowship; the 1992 Emmy for Best Interview (for One on One with Charlie Rose); a UNEP Global 500 Award; and Oxford University’s Dawkins Prize.


Andy RoganAndy RoganvideoAndy Rogan

Ocean Alliance Crew

Andy Rogan is an aspiring wildlife & environmental film-maker from London, England. He has a BA in Archaeology & Anthropology at the University of Durham and an MSc in Animal Behaviour from the University of Exeter. Andy has worked for Ocean Alliance both at the Paint Factory HQ shadowing uncle Iain Kerr (CEO Ocean Alliance), and on the Odyssey as a part of the 2011 Gulf of Mexico Expedition and knows the principles and goals of the organisation well. In 2011 he helped create a number of short videos for Ocean Alliance documenting life on-board a scientific research vessel, both as a member of the film-crew in the Gulf of Mexico and in the editing suite back in Gloucester. This year his position is scientific coordinator.

Andy RoganHis key interest as scientific coordinator is on the toxicological significance of Sperm Whales as bio-indicators of the effects of the oil spill, partly owing to the combined impacts of bio-accumulation and bio-magnification on this long-lived, apex predator. He is keen to help further our understanding of the chronic toxicological impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on the Gulf of Mexico’s marine ecosystem.

Having only recently completed his MSc, Andy is now looking forward to pursuing a career in factual documentary production, primarily related to his three areas of study: archaeology, anthropology and natural history.


Bob WallaceBob WallacevideoBob Wallace

Ocean Alliance Crew

When Ocean Alliance purchased The Odyssey in December 1991 they inherited the engineer, now captain, Bob Wallace. Bob had been working as the engineer and captain of The Odyssey since 1986 when the vessel was a private yacht. He is an experienced and accomplished sailor having circumnavigated the globe three times on three different vessels. Bob Wallace has worked as Bob Wallacecaptain and engineer of The Odyssey throughout many Ocean Alliance campaigns, sailing the vessel to the Dominican, Galapagos Islands, the Sea of Cortez, The Bahamas and one world trip. For the past three summers Bob has sailed The Odyssey around the Gulf of Mexico for the Ocean Alliance sperm whale research campaigns making this year’s campaign, Operation Toxic Gulf, his fourth research voyage through the gulf.


Eliza MuirheadEliza Muirhead

Sea Shepherd Crew

Eliza started out as a volunteer for Sea Shepherd when she was studying Animal Science at Melbourne University in 2008. When she began learning about industrial animal agriculture and the environmental concerns that face our planet, she decided to dedicate her studies and time to defending, conserving and protecting the environment and the animals that call it home.

In 2010, Eliza completed a Masters in Science Communication in Documentary Film at Otago University, New Zealand and moved back to Melbourne to help develop an organisation called Fair Projects. Fair Projects worked with both emerging and leading environmental and animal rights organisations to help improve their outreach strategies in media and communications and Sea Shepherd was one of these groups.

Eliza MuirheadNow Eliza works for Sea Shepherd in media production and lives on the M/Y Steve Irwin in Williamstown, Melbourne. In the past year Eliza has sailed enough miles on the Steve Irwin to circumnavigate the world. She has worked on photography and film projects to help protect the world’s oceans from stopping the development of a Gas Hub in the world’s largest Humpback whale nursery in Western Australia to defending the whales in Antarctica from the harpoons of the Japanese Whaling Fleet

Eliza now finds herself onboard a smaller ship, The R/V Odyssey, embarking on a two-month voyage in the Gulf of Mexico. Operation Toxic Gulf is Sea Shepherd’s first collaboration with Oceanographic Research organisation, Ocean Alliance. The two crews will join together to investigate the effects of BP’s deep-water horizon oil disaster, and it’s subsequent, ‘clean-up’, on the resident Sperm Whale population in the Gulf of Mexico. There are many threats that the environment and it’s animals face, from industrial developments to harpoons and Eliza is looking forward to beginning work on a somewhat invisible threat – chemical pollution of the world’s oceans.


Erwin VermeulenErwin VermeulenvideoErwin Vermeulen

Sea Shepherd Crew

Erwin Vermeulen has been working for more than twenty years at sea. During his leaves, he spent his time traveling around the world with a growing realization that the natural beauty that he visited also needed protection. Since then, he combined his job as chief engineer on an expedition cruise ship with volunteering for Sea Shepherd.

Erwin has participated in campaigns in the Southern Ocean, the Mediterranean, the Faroe Islands, Taiji, Japan and the Columbia River, USA. In addition he helps as needed on ship management/repairs. He is honored to now be sailing for Operation Toxic Gulf on the research vessel The Odyssey.

Erwin VermeulenErwin was in the news when he was arrested in Taiji in December 2011 for allegedly pushing a dolphin trainer, while trying to document the transfer of dolphins to a captive facility. Erwin spent 64 days in a Japanese cell before he was acquitted of these false accusations.

Erwin works together with his girlfriend Susan on animal rescues in the US. They share their houses with: Snake - a one-eyed cat, Dolly - a cat with one kidney, Poes - a deaf cat and Sally - a blind and deaf dog. Erwin calls both Friday Harbor, San Juan Island and Veldhoven, the Netherlands home, but he spends as much time at sea.

He photographs and writes for www.piepvandaag.nl and for www.seashepherd.org.


Hillary WatsonHillary WatsonvideoHillary Watson

Sea Shepherd

Animal activism runs in Hillary’s family. Hillary was introduced to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society through her uncle Captain Paul Watson at a very young age, and is very excited to have a chance to become part of the crew. As a vegan, animal rights activist, and environmentalist, Hillary is volunteering for Sea Shepherd to take direct-action in fighting for those that cannot defend themselves. Hillary was born and raised in London Ontario, Canada. She attended Sir Sandford Fleming College and graduated as an Environmental Technologist. Hillary has Hillary Watsonvolunteered for various organizations to offer care to animals of the Galapagos Islands, as an on-shore volunteer of Sea Shepherd in planning and working fundraising events, and as part of the Katrina relief efforts to assist people affected by the hurricane. Hillary is excited about the collaboration between Sea Shepherd and Ocean Alliance in the Operation Toxic Gulf campaign and of the positive effects this campaign could have on the well being of the marine life that live in the Gulf of Mexico.


Iain KerrIain Kerr

Ocean Alliance Crew

Dr. Iain Kerr is the CEO of the Ocean Alliance, an organization recognized as an international leader in whale research and ocean conservation since its founding by renowned scientist Dr. Roger Payne in 1970.Born in Scotland in 1956, Iain has Bachelor of Education Degree, with honors, from the University of London. Working in the United States since 1983, Iain became a permanent U.S. resident in 1998.   Iain started with the Ocean Alliance as a volunteer and worked his way up through the ranks over the last 18 years to his current title of CEO.

Iain KerrIain has held board positions on the Alaska Whale Foundation, The Canadian Whale Institute and the Loreto Bay Foundation. He has also worked with the Alexander Graham Bell Foundation for the Deaf. Iain is an accomplished speaker and photographer and has led international teams on research and conservation efforts to all parts of the globe including Australia, Argentina, Alaska, the Caribbean, the Canary Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Greece, Hawaii, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Seychelles and other island groups in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea.

He calls his passion “conservation science”. He is listed as author and or co-author on more than 25 scientific papers and has ensured that Ocean Alliance discoveries reach the general public in both technical and layman’s form.

Iain has for the last fourteen years directed his energies toward Ocean Alliance’s most ambitious program, the Voyage’s of the Odyssey. The first voyage, which ended in August of 2005, was a five-year, round-the-world research program to collect the first-ever baseline data set on the concentration, distribution, and effects of synthetic contaminants on top predator species throughout the world’s oceans.

Iain is very excited to find himself onboard The R/V Odyssey as Campaign Leader for Operation Toxic Gulf, a first ever collaboration between Ocean Alliance and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.


Lauren PaapLauren PaapvideoLauren Paap

Ocean Alliance

Lauren Paap works with Ocean Alliance as the Marine Coordinator and Galley-Cook. Over the past year her work has taken her from Gloucester to Tahiti, including an annual Ocean Alliance-SCRIPPS Oceanic data gathering campaign in the Gulf of Mexico. Operation Toxic Gulf is her third campaign.

Lauren PaapA Dutch-American who calls Boston home, Lauren brings more than 20 years of program management experience working with NGO’s providing rehabilitation opportunities for people living with psychiatric and developmental disabilities as well as organizations dedicated to improving the lives of young children and adults who experienced homelessness.

Over the last decade her increasing concern about the environment has led to an interest in community minded and sustainable living initiatives. Always eager to make a positive impact, she made significant changes in her personal life, including selling her house to live on a sailboat, to reduce her carbon footprint.

Lauren’s search for an opportunity to shift her career from human services to one that allows her to address social and environmental issues on a global scale led her to join Ocean Alliance. She is particularly excited about the recent collaboration between Ocean Alliance and Sea Shepherd, finding the mission and work of both organizations complimentary and compelling.


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