We mainly investigate the social & vocal behavior of groups of killer whales and long finned pilot whales that appear close to the northern Norwegian coast (Vestfjord) every year.
This investigation includes sound recordings, photo-ID, video, and behavioral studies.

pilots-vestfjord-hvester (1 of 1)

We also record other marine life, such as Atlantic white sided dolphins, Minke whales, Fin whales, Humpback whales and Harbor porpoises, as well as talking Cod or roaring Seals.

humpback-breach-hvester-2007 (1 of 1)By applying research of whales, coastal seals, and cod – key species
of the Arctic ecosystem – we will contribute to monitoring the state of health
of our northern marine ecosystem.
The local community will benefit by preserving their rich marine environment
to assure a steady source of resources and to continue
with their traditional ways of living, such as fishing and tourism.

Whales feeding at the top of the food web are vulnerable to slight changes
in their environment and will reflect any imbalance in the marine ecosystem.
We can learn from whales, and take action to reduce negative effects on their survival.
Whatever we do on a local scale will have global impacts, and only a large biodiversity will ensure the survival of our planet.

Bio-acoustic research will be a way to a better understanding of the animals biology,
by learning about their way to communicate with each other and their environment.

Research Projects

Killer Whales and Pilot Whales in Norway
We study the biology and behavior of killer whales and long finned pilot whales that are abundant in northern Norway.

orca-group-hvester-2012 (1 of 1)-6Photo-Identification:
We created a Photo-ID data base with over 700 individual killer whales since 2003.
Our Photo-ID catalog of Pilot Whales contains more than 260 individuals since 2006.

pilot-whales-hvester-2012 (1 of 1)-3Bio-acoustic studies:
We have started to create a new catalog of group-specific calls of killer whales and pilot whales.
So far we have investigated 23 groups of killer whales and found 61 calls and 34 sub-calls, in progress…

We have studied 8 groups of long-finned pilot whales in the Vestfjord since 2006 and found large differences in Photo-ID and Vocal Repertoire, in progress of publishing….

In cooperation with the Max Planck Institute of Dynamics & Self-organization (non linear dynamics group) in Goettingen, we conduct a close analysis of the structure and variations of the pulsed calls and whistles in order to investigate how/in which context they are used.
Analysis is progress…

We also work on acoustics and Photo-ID of Harbor porpoises, Minke whales, Atlantic white sided dolphins and Humpback whales.

Project NAKID
Project NAKID (North Atlantic Killer Whale ID) is the development of an open source, online library of photo-identification, genotype and stereotyped call repertoire for NE Atlantic killer whales, namely the populations from Norway, Iceland and Scotland.  Project is a co-operation between several researchers working on North Atlantic killer whales.

This project will combine three aspects of killer whale research (photo-id, acoustic and genetic data) and cross-link them in one innovative library, making a range of information on killer whales from the North Atlantic readily available. Particularly, it will be possible to access information on the genetics, group composition and vocal behavior of each population and how it relates to other populations (e.g. providing information on movement of individuals between populations, as well as genetic and acoustic relatedness). You can find more information about NAKID here:

Pictures wanted!!!
If you have been out at sea in northern Norway and you took pictures of whales or dolphins, and if you would like to share them for our photo-ID research, please contact us:
Thank you!

..more information

Nature and Islands around Henningsvaer
We monitor the distribution of animals appearing around Henningsvaer throughout the entire year.
This includes studies of the birds and their breeding success as well as vocal behavior and distribution of whales (e.g. harbor porpoises) and seals (harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) and grey seals (Halichoerus grypus)) in the waters around Henningsvaer. We plot our course and way points (GPS) and we record sounds and airborne behavior from animals whenever we meet them during our marine biology excursions.

One example of our monitoring study: Cormorant colony declined from 150 to 50 animals and have abandoned their traditional breeding island due to disturbance by tourist boats. We have tried to get the local community to introduce guidelines and regulation for boats, but wihtout success: the breeding colony is exactly at the border of two communities (Vagaan and Vestvagoy) and none of the local government bodies feels responsible :-(
Read the whole article: cormorant-colony-20091

We had a Master project by Silke Nielebock from the University of Oldenburg in Germany. Her thesis was completed 2008 and can be downloaded in German:


Cod (ceased project due to lack of funding):
We planned to study the sound production and distribution of cod (Gadus morhua) during spawning: We recorded sound, GPS and measure water temperature in the sea around Lofoten during March-April in order to monitor distribution and behavior of spawning cod.
Cod clicks: we wanted to investigate whether cod produces clicks, produced in captivity (codclicks-hvester-etal-2004) in the wild.
..more information

Philosophy / Deep Ecology:
Philosophy student Martin Lee Miller spent some time with us in 2007 to study the north, the whales and the visitors. He completed his thesis: “Symphony of Silence” at the University of Oslo.

In addition he wrote a book on the same topic:
Symphony of Silences invites the reader to become an active interlocutor in the unfolding of a complex and multilayered philosophical journey. On an analytical level, the book ventures to give a thorough critique of contemporary ecological ethics. It develops the hypothesis that others – a word whose careful specification occupies the treatise as a whole – are often being marginalized and silenced in ecological ethics. Parallel to this critique, the author searches for a writing style that may undermine this discourse of silencing, a writing style both succinct and porous. He examines a dialectics of concurrent saying and listening, of showing and impartial discovering, as well as a dynamic synthesis of the specific and the general. These inquiries are embedded into a narrative. As the argument develops, a story unfolds, the account of a journey that begins atop a large mountain, goes off to sea, and steers towards a surprising, unforeseen haven. The narrative itself is woven tightly into the emerging argument and helps to attune the complex philosophical themes here examined to the life that each of us goes on living, from one day to the next.