Taylor Hersh (Ph.D. Student): Despite our general knowledge of sperm whale dialects, the question of how dialects initially evolved, and how they may (or may not) be evolving today, remains enigmatic. Given extensive acoustic research efforts in both the Tropical Pacific and the Eastern Caribbean, sperm whale dialect evolution can now be feasibly investigated. The goal of my doctoral research is to elucidate the communicative mechanisms that allow sperm whales to evolve and maintain distinct dialects in varying degrees of sympatry.
Felicia Vachon (M.Sc. Student): Although culture has been extensively studied and is considered a main driver of evolution in humans, it remains fairly controversial in animals. The objective of my thesis is, therefore, to use sperm whale as an example of the extent of culture in non-humans and highlight the importance of incorporating culture into mainstream biology. This will be achieved by comparing habitat use and behaviour between sperm whale vocal clans.