Shane Gero – Preserving Animal Cultures: Lessons from Whale Wisdom

We have been killing whales for centuries, but we do so now out of ignorance rather than intent. As cetacean pods lose mothers and grandmothers, they lose wisdom inherited across generations on how to survive. Whale researcher Shane Gero shares some of what he has learned from the thousands of hours he has spent in the company of sperm whales, including how fundamentally similar their lives are to our own and how their cultures define their identity, just as ours do. Shane explains why we need new approaches to whale conservation that recognize the biologically important divisions between different communities of whales, so we can respect their identity and cultural diversity; and how this can be extrapolated to the larger struggle to conserve biodiversity.

This talk was delivered at the 2023 Bioneers Conference. Read an edited transcript of this talk here.

Photo by Spencer Colby/The Charlatan

Shane Gero, Ph.D., is a Canadian whale biologist, Scientist-in-Residence at Ottawa’s Carleton University, and a National Geographic Explorer. He is the founder of The Dominica Sperm Whale Project, a long-term research program detailing the lives of these enigmatic ocean nomads in the Eastern Caribbean. His research is motivated by a desire to understand animal societies, how and why they form, and sadly, what happens when they fall apart. Shane is also the Biology Lead for Project CETI who are applying machine learning and gentle robotics to decipher sperm whale communication. His science appears in numerous magazines, books, and television; and most recently was the basis for the Emmy Award winning series, Secrets of the Whales.

Learn more about Shane Gero and his work at


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