Michael Poole

Marine Mammal Research Program,

Moorea, French Polynesia

Dr. M. Michael Poole has conducted research on whales and dolphins since 1980. Assisting studies on manatees and false killer whales, he received his Bachelor’s Degree from the Un. of Miami, Florida. His three years of Master’s Degree research (California State University) discovered the previously unknown route and timing used by gray whale females and calves migrating northward along the California coast. He has also studied bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico and gray whales in Baja California, Mexico. Michael’s Ph.D. (Un. of California) was based on six years of spinner dolphin research at Tahiti and Moorea in French Polynesia.

From 1996-98 Michael held the appointment of Research Fellow at the Institute of Marine Sciences (Un. of Cal., Santa Cruz). From 1997-2006 Michael and his research program were based on Moorea at CRIOBE, a research station of the Un. of Perpignan, France. He is the Founder and Director of the Marine Mammal Research Program on Moorea, French Polynesia; a founder and member of the Executive Committee of the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium; a Research Associate with the Center for Cetacean Research and Conservaton (U.S.); a charter member of the Society for Marine Mammalogy; and a member of the American Society of Mammalogists.

Since 1987, Michael’s major scientific efforts have been on spinner dolphins, humpback whales, rough-toothed dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, pilot whales, and melon-headed whales at 30 different islands in all five of French Polynesia’s archipelagoes (Society Islands, Marquesas Islands, Tuamotu Islands, Gambier Islands, Austral Islands). Michael discovered that some humpback whales use French Polynesia as a breeding ground; this was previously unknown.

In 1988 Dr. Poole established French Polynesia’s first dolphin and whale sighting/stranding network; it has received sighting reports on over 20 species of dolphins and whales at over 30 different islands. Michael has given reports on his research to the United Nations’ Cetacean Specialist Group of the South Pacific Regional Environmental Program.

In 1992 Michael created French Polynesia’s first ever whale watching tours, Dolphin & Whale Watching Expeditions, a boat-based eco-tour that takes people to observe and learn about wild, freeranging dolphins and whales. These tours contribute financial and material support to Michael’s and his students’ and colleagues’ scientific research.

To heighten public awareness about dolphins and whales in French Polynesia, in 1994 Dr. Poole and French Polynesia’s postal service created three postage stamps featuring whales and dolphins; two stamps used Michael’s photographs, and Michael wrote the informative philatelic brochures that were sent to stamp collectors around the world.

In 1995 Dr. Poole produced color posters in Tahitian, French, and English with photographs and text on three species of whales and dolphins in French Polynesia and the Cook Islands; these posters, financed by the Ministry of the Environment, were given gratis to all the islands’ schools. In 1996 he produced another poster featuring black and white illustrations of the 24 species of dolphins and whales in French Polynesia. These posters were given gratis to the schools, and in 1998 and 2012 the Ministry of the Environment released second and third editions of these posters.

In 1996 Michael was a scientific consultant for a French Canal Plus TV special “Les Chasses du Dauphin-Roi” on bottlenose dolphins; he also worked with David Doubilet (renowned underwater photographer) and the late Peter Benchley (author of “JAWS”) for the June 1997 National Geographic magazine.

In 1998 Michael’s spinner dolphin research was featured in the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet TV documentary, “Ocean Acrobats: The Spinner Dolphins”. From 1998 – 2017 Michael presented “Enrichment Lecture” seminars onboard the award winning cruise ship, Paul Gauguin. In 1998 Michael and his research on Rangiroa atoll’s bottlenose dolphins were featured on the FRANCE 2 TV special “Les Nouveaux Mondes”, and since 1999 Michael’s research has been repeatedly featured in the Discovery Channel/Animal Planet documentary “Shark Central: The Secrets of Rangiroa Atoll”. In 2000 he was a scientific consultant for the extraordinary BBC/Discovery Channel series “The Blue Planet”, shown since 2002 in the U.S. on PBS and Discovery. In January 2001 his research on soil erosion and coral reef health was featured in Harper’s Magazine. Later that year his research on humpback whales was featured in “La Dance des Baleines”, a documentary shown on the French chain Canal Plus; in 2005 this same documentary was shown on National Geographic TV in the US and Asia. From 2002-2005 his research and eco-tours were featured in two documentaries shown on Vox Tours and Tierzeit TV in Europe; his eco-tours have also been featured on the Travel Channel (US). In 2004 he and his research were featured in the award winning children’s book “Dolphins in Danger” of the ‘Adventures of Riley’ series. In 2005 he was a scientific consultant for the outstanding BBC/Discovery Channel series “Planet Earth”, which in 2009 was shown in cinemas as the Disney film “Earth”. In 2006 Michael’s research and conservation efforts were featured in the French TV production, “Sentinelles de la Nature” shown on Ushuaia TV. In 2007 his research was featured in the award winning book “The Fragile Edge”. In 2008 Michael’s research was featured in the French TV series “Polynésie Entre Ciel et Terre” shown on Planet Thalassa. In 2009 Michael coordinated the filming of dolphins and whales for the IMAX film “The Ultimate Wave – Tahiti”. In 2010 his research and eco-tours were featured in National Geographic Traveler Magazine and in 2011 in TraveLife Magazine. In 2011 his research on humpback whales was featured in the TV documentary series “Adventure Ocean Quest”, as well as in the Travel Channel series “The Blue Continent”. In 2012 his research on humpback whales and his eco-tours were featured in the TV series “Horizon Pacific”, as well as in the documentaries “Danse avec les Poissons” and “Ile aux Baleines” shown on the European channel Arte TV. In 2013 his research and eco-tours were filmed for the documentary “Ile aux Baleines du Dr. Poole”. In February 2014 Michael and his research on humpback whales were featured in the documentary “Humpback whales of Tahiti” shown on ABC TV’s “Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin”. In February 2019 Michael and his research on humpback whales were featured on Animal Planet’s “Evan Goes Wild” and on ABC’s “Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin”.

Dr. Poole’s conservation successes at Moorea include the designation of one “no-take” Marine Protected Area, as well as three zones classed as “Dolphin and Whale Rest Areas”. His most significant conservation success was in May 2002 when, after ten years of effort, French Polynesia’s government accepted Michael’s proposition and his draft legislation creating a whale and dolphin sanctuary throughout the country’s entire Exclusive Economic Zone. In 2003 the World Wildlife Fund awarded French Polynesia their highest accolade, the Gift to the Earth Award, because of the sanctuary. On World Tourism Day in 2008, French Polynesia’s Ministry of the Environment and the Tahiti Tourism Office gave Michael an award “In recognition of your contributions to the Environment and Tourism” for his work to create the sanctuary, and for his pioneering of scientific research on cetaceans, and pioneering of whale watching, in French Polynesia.

Michael is married since 1990 to Mareva Tepau from Moorea, a civil servant and a traditional dancer; they have two sons, Temoana (28 yrs) and Tearenui (26 yrs). Dr. Poole has both American and French citizenship.