Ingrid Visser (biologist)

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Ingrid Visser

Ingrid Natasha Visser (born 20 February 1966) is a New Zealand marine biologist who studies orcas. She regularly lectures on the subject aboard cruise ships, especially in Antarctica, and has been featured in several documentaries about orcas.

Early life[edit]

Visser was born in Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand. Her parents were Dutch immigrants who moved to New Zealand in the 1950s. They were both nationalised as New Zealanders after she was born.[citation needed]

Between June 1982 and November 1986, Visser sailed with her parents and sister aboard a 17-metre (56 ft) yacht around the world.[1] The trip covered over 50,000 nautical miles (93,000 km) and visited more than 40 countries.


Visser holds three university degrees: a Bachelor of Science (Massey University), a Masters of Science, and a Doctorate of Philosophy (both the University of Auckland). Visser has been working with orca (Orcinus orca, also known as killer whales) since 1992 and completed her PhD in 2000,[2] the first scientific study of orca in New Zealand waters.

Scientific work[edit]

Visser's team with wild orca

Her research on orca has been published in international scientific journals, since 1998, and many of these publications are available on the Orca Research Trust website.[3]

In 2002 Visser's research was instrumental in the New Zealand Government's reclassification of New Zealand orcas from "Common" in the New Zealand Threat Classification System to "Nationally Critical". This is the equivalent status of "Critically Endangered" in the internationally recognised IUCN Red Data listing.


She has published numerous popular articles and her photographs have appeared in magazines such as National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, New Zealand Geographic, and An Encyclopedia of New Zealand.[4]

Visser has set up the Orca Research Trust, the Antarctic Killer Whale Identification Catalogue and was a co-founder of the Punta Norte Orca Research non-profit organisations all focusing on orca research. She also set up Adopt an Orca to facilitate fund raising and public awareness.

Visser has written an autobiography, Swimming with Orca, which was a finalist in the Environmental category of the New Zealand Montana Book Awards, and two children's books (I Love Killer Whales and The Orca). The latter has been translated into Māori and is currently in press as a bilingual English/Spanish publication.

Visser works as a guide on a variety of eco-tourism adventures, from swimming with whales to visiting Antarctica. She is also a public speaker.

Selected publications[edit]

  • Orca (Orcinus orca) in New Zealand waters (Ph.D. Dissertation).[5]
  • Antarctic peninsula killer whales (Orcinus orca) hunt seals and a penguin on floating ice. Marine Mammal Science.[6]
  • Cookie Cutter Shark (Isistius sp.) Bites on Cetaceans, with Particular Reference to Killer Whales (Orca) (Orcinus orca). Aquatic Mammals.[7]
  • Stranding, resighting, and boat strike of a killer whale (Orcinus orca) off New Zealand. Aquatic Mammals.[8]

Other work[edit]

Visser is a member of the Australia & New Zealand branch of The Explorers Club and continues to travel the world in search of orca. She published the first manuscript on Papua New Guinea orca, and returns regularly to Walindi Plantation Resort to conduct field research there.

She serves as Chair of the Free Morgan Foundation, and organization involved in efforts to free captive orca Morgan in Europe, and has appeared in court in relation to those efforts.[9][10]

In September 2010, she co-founded Whale Rescue, an organisation of volunteers who provide logistical and practical expertise and equipment for rescuing cetaceans.

In June 2017, she served as a witness to a Senate committee on Fisheries and Oceans in the Senate of Canada in favour of Bill S-203, which would make it illegal to keep cetaceans and whales in captivity in Canada.[11]


Visser has appeared in and contributed to documentaries featuring her research with orcas. IMDb lists some of her work:[12]


  1. ^ Geoff Cumming (6 December 2010). "New Zealander of the Year Finalist: Dr Ingrid Visser". New Zealand Herald.
  2. ^ Visser, Ingrid (2000). Orca (Orcinus orca) in New Zealand waters (Doctoral thesis). ResearchSpace@Auckland, University of Auckland. hdl:2292/614.
  3. ^ "Scientific Articles". Orca Research Trust.
  4. ^ Hutching, Gerard (9 July 2013). "Orcas - Feeding and other habits". Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Te Ara.
  5. ^ Visser, Ingrid (2000). Orca (Orcinus orca) in New Zealand waters (Thesis thesis). ResearchSpace@Auckland.
  6. ^ Visser, Ingrid N.; Smith, Thomas G.; Bullock, Ian D.; Green, Geoffrey D.; Carlsson, Olle G. L.; Imberti, Santiago (January 2008). "Antarctic peninsula killer whales (Orcinus orca) hunt seals and a penguin on floating ice". Marine Mammal Science. 24 (1): 225–234. Bibcode:2008MMamS..24..225V. doi:10.1111/j.1748-7692.2007.00163.x. ISSN 0824-0469.
  7. ^ Dwyer, Sarah (2011-06-01). "Cookie Cutter Shark (Isistius sp.) Bites on Cetaceans, with Particular Reference to Killer Whales (Orca) (Orcinus orca)". Aquatic Mammals. 37 (2): 111–138. doi:10.1578/AM.37.2.2011.111. S2CID 88259240.
  8. ^ Alstrup, Aage Kristian Olsen; Thøstesen, Charlotte Bie; Hansen, Kirstin Anderson; Sonne, Christian; Kinze, Carl Christian; Mikkelsen, Lars; Thomsen, Annika; Povlsen, Peter; Larsen, Hanne Lyngholm; Linder, Anne Cathrine; Pagh, Sussie (January 2023). "The Self-Stranding Behavior of a Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) in Inner Danish Waters and Considerations concerning Human Interference in Live Strandings". Animals. 13 (12): 1948. doi:10.3390/ani13121948. ISSN 2076-2615. PMC 10295617. PMID 37370458.
  9. ^ "Free Morgan Foundation". Free Morgan. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  10. ^ Elizabeth Batt (10 December 2012). "Dr. Visser says park suing her over report submitted in court". Digital Journal. Archived from the original on 2020-11-12.
  11. ^ "Senate of Canada". 1 June 2017. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  12. ^ "Ingrid Visser".
  13. ^ "Natural World, 2011-2012, The Woman Who Swims with Killer Wales". BBC Two. Retrieved 2 June 2015.

External links[edit]