Carole Carlson

Dr. Carole Carlson, a valiant advocate for the conservation of whales and their marine environment, died on March 24 in Provincetown, Massachusetts, of pancreatic cancer. She was 69. Carole was among the pioneering researchers who developed a nonlethal method to study humpback whales using photo-identification of the unique patterns on the underside of individual whales’ flukes. A research associate at the College of the Atlantic in Maine, as well as an adjunct scientist at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Carole helped develop and maintain the first humpback whale catalog; through her studies she grew to know several generations of North Atlantic humpbacks.

She was also a key proponent of responsible whale watching as a viable economic alternative to whaling. She helped found the Sub-Committee on Whalewatching in the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee and eventually served as its co-chair. As director of research and education for the Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch in Provincetown, she trained hundreds of young naturalists in benign research methods. Carole’s generosity of spirit extended well beyond the United States, as she shared her knowledge with researchers and whale-watch companies in dozens of countries, including Iceland. Her positive influence was especially felt in the Caribbean, where she advanced cetacean protection in the region by helping to draft the Marine Mammal Action Plan for the UN’s Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW Protocol)—the primary international treaty for the protection of wildlife in the Wider Caribbean Region.

While AWI mourns her passing, we know that Carole leaves behind a strong legacy that will continue to promote whale protection well into the future.