Hal Whitehead



I am normally based in the Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. However, I like best to be at sea. The boat we use for our research, Balaena (Valiant 40 ocean-going cruising boat) sometimes works off Nova Scotia, and sometimes in other parts of the world.



Our work


Our work is mainly on the behaviour (principally social organization and cultural transmission), ecology and population biology of sperm and northern bottlenose whales. We have ongoing research projects in the eastern Pacific (sperm whales since 1985, work planned for 20013-14 off Ecuador) and northwest Atlantic (sperm whales since 1986, bottlenose whales off Nova Scotia since 1988). We spend weeks at sea on board ocean-going sailing boats collecting acoustic, visual, photographic and oceanographic data, and then long periods analyzing them in the lab. The graduate students whom I supervise study the social organization, behaviour, acoustics, population biology and conservation of pilot, sperm and northern bottlenose whales. My own work is principally on the behaviour, social structure, population biology and conservation of sperm whales, techniques of studying social structure, and more general questions about social structure in mammals and cultural evolution.





Whitehead, H. 2008. Analyzing animal societies: quantitative methods for vertebrate social analysis. University of Chicago Press. 320pp.


Whitehead, H. 2003. Sperm whales; social evolution in the ocean. University of Chicago Press. 431pp.


Mann, J., R.C. Connor, P.L. Tyack, and H. Whitehead (Editors). 2000. Cetacean Societies. Field studies of dolphins and whales. University of Chicago Press. 432 pp.


Whitehead, H. 1989. Voyage to the whales. Stoddart / Chelsea Green/ Robert Hale


Publications since 1977


Programs for the analysis of social structure (SOCPROG)


I have written a series of MATLAB programs for analyzing data on social structure, movements and populations based on individual identifications. The programs are designed to be easy to use, most input is done through graphical user interfaces (i.e. windows with things to click on), and most things can be done without any knowledge of MATLAB (although this helps for custom options, figuring out errors, making your own extensions, etc.). The programs are also designed to be pretty flexible so you can tailor the analyses to your data and hypotheses. The current version is designed to be used with MATLAB7.


These programs are available to anyone who would like to use them. If you would like more information and/or would like to download a copy of these programs click here now.


Advice for potential graduate students


Courses, etc. at Dalhousie


Currently I teach:


BIOL5700           Communications Skills for Biologists

BIOL4062/5062  Analysis of Biological Data




Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, 1355 Oxford St., Halifax, Nova Scotia, CANADA B3H 4J1


email: hwhitehe@dal.ca


FAX: 902-494-3736 Ph: 902-494-3723





Website created by Sascha Hooker
Last Updated September 2012 by Hal Whitehead