Ingrid Visser (researcher)

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Ingrid Natasha Visser (born 20 February 1966 at Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand) is a marine biologist known for studying orcas. She regularly lectures on the subject aboard cruise ships, especially in Antarctica, and has been featured in multiple documentaries about orca.

Dr. Ingrid N. Visser. Photo by Jo Berghan

Early life[edit]

Both her parents were Dutch immigrants who came to New Zealand in the 1950s. They were both nationalized as New Zealanders after she was born. Her mother is deceased and her father resides in New Zealand. She has one younger sister (Monique) also born in New Zealand, currently residing in Auckland, New Zealand.

Between June 1982 and November 1986 Visser sailed with her parents and sister aboard a 17.3 m (57 ft) yacht,[1] around the world. 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 Auckland University). Visser has been working with orca (Orcinus orca, also known as killer whales) since 1992 and completed her PhD in 2000, on the first ever scientific study of orca in New Zealand waters.

Scientific work[edit]

Dr.Visser's team with wild orcas

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.[2] (see below for a list of scientific publications).

In 2002 Visser’s research was instrumental in the New Zealand Government’s reclassification of New Zealand orca 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-style articles and her photographs have appeared in various magazines such as National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, New Zealand Geographic, and An Encyclopedia of New Zealand .[3]

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” – a finalist in the Environmental category of the prestigious New Zealand Montana Book Awards) and two children’s books (“I love killer whales” & “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 a public speaker and has been described as “a marine version of Jane Goodall,” where her passion for the protection of orcas and their fragile habitats, as well as rescuing many stranded whales are clearly illustrated in her photographs.

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 has published the first ever manuscript on Papua New Guinea orca and returns regularly to Walindi Plantation Resort to conduct field research there.

She is also playing a crucial role in the Free Morgan Foundation efforts to free the captive orca Morgan[4] and has appeared in court in the Netherlands in connection with Morgan’s release efforts.[5]

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


Visser has appeared in and contributed to documentaries featuring her research with orcas. IMDb lists some of her work:[6]

Scientific publications[edit]

  • Visser, I. N. (1998) Prolific body scars and collapsing dorsal fins on killer whales in New Zealand waters. Aquatic Mammals 24(2): 71-81.
  • Visser, I. N. (1999) Benthic foraging on stingrays by killer whales (Orcinus orca) in New Zealand waters. Marine Mammal Science 15(1): 220-227.
  • Visser, I. N. (1999) Antarctic orca in New Zealand waters? New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 33(3): 515-520.
  • Visser, I. N. (1999) A summary of interactions between orca (Orcinus orca) and other cetaceans in New Zealand waters. New Zealand Journal of Natural Science 24: 101-112.
  • Visser, I. N. (1999) Propeller scars and known migration of two orca (Orcinus orca) in New Zealand waters. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 33(4): 635-642.
  • Visser, I. N. and Mäkeläinen, P. (2000) Variation in eye-patch shape of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in New Zealand waters. Marine Mammal Science 16(2): 459-469.
  • Visser, I. N. (2000)I Orca (Orcinus orca) in New Zealand waters. School of Environmental and Marine Science (p. 194). University of Auckland, Auckland. 194 pp.
  • Visser, I. N., Fertl, D., Berghan, J. and van Meurs, R. (2000) Killer whale (Orcinus orca) predation on a shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus), in New Zealand waters. Aquatic Mammals 26(3): 229-231.
  • Visser, I. N. and Fertl, D. C. (2000) Stranding, resighting and boat strike of a killer whale (Orcinus orca) off New Zealand. Aquatic Mammals 26(3): 232-240.
  • Visser, I. N. (2000) Killer whale (Orcinus orca) interactions with longlines fisheries in New Zealand waters. Aquatic Mammals 26(3): 241-252.
  • Visser, I. N. (2001) The Orca (ISBN 1 86948 876 8 ed.). Reeds Children's Books, Auckland. 24 pp.
  • Visser, I. N. (2001) I love killer whales. Wendy Pye Publishing Ltd, Auckland. 64 pp.
  • Visser, I. N. (2002)I Kimbe Bay Preliminary Marine Mammal Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA), July 2002. Unpublished Survey Report for The Nature Conservancy, C/o South Pacific Office P.O. Box 65-506, Mairangi Bay, Auckland, New Zealand.
  • Visser, I. N. and Bonaccorso, F. J. (2003) New observations and a review of killer whale (Orcinus orca) sightings in Papua New Guinea waters. Aquatic Mammals 29(1): 150-172.
  • Visser, I. N. and Bonaccorso, F. J. (2003) New observations and a review of killer whale (Orcinus orca) sightings in Papua New Guinea waters. Aquatic Mammals 29(1): 150-172.
  • Visser, I. N., Fertl, D. and Pusser, L. T. (2004) Melanistic southern right-whale dolphins (Lissodelphis peronii) off Kaikoura, New Zealand, with records of other anomalously all-black cetaceans. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 38(5): 833-836.
  • Visser, I. N. (2005) First observations of feeding on thresher (Alopias vulpinus) and hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena) sharks by killer whales (Orcinus orca) which specialise on elasmobranchs as prey. Aquatic Mammals 31(1): 83-88.
  • Stockin, K. A. and Visser, I. N. (2005) Anomalously pigmented common dolphins (Delphinus sp.) off Northern New Zealand. Aquatic Mammals 31(1): 43-51.
  • Visser, I. N. (2005) Swimming with orca: My life with New Zealand's killer whales. Penguin Books, Auckland. 240 pp.
  • Visser, I. N., Smith, T. G., Bullock, I. D., Green, G., Carlsson, O. G. L. and Imberti, S. (2008) Antarctic Peninsula killer whales (Orcinus orca) hunt seals and a penguin on floating ice. Marine Mammal Science: 11.
  • Visser, I. N., Berghan, J. and Norton, K. (2007)I Killer whales of Antarctica; Details gathered via eco-tourism (SC/59/SM21). 59th Annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee. International Whaling Commission, Anchorage, Alaska.
  • Berghan, J. and Visser, I. N. (2000) Vertebral column malformations in New Zealand delphinids with a review of cases world-wide. Aquatic Mammals 26(1): 17-25.
  • Constantine, R., Visser, I., Buurman, D., Buurman, R. and McFadden, B. (1998) Killer whale (Orcinus orca) predation on dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) in Kaikoura, New Zealand. Marine Mammal Science 14(2): 324-330.
  • Duignan, P. J., Hunter, J. E. B., Visser, I. N., Jones, G. W. and Nutman, A. (2000) Stingray spines: A potential cause of killer whale mortality in New Zealand. Aquatic Mammals 26(2): 143-147.
  • Sorisio, S. L., de Maddalena, A. and Visser, I. N. (2006) Interaction between killer whales (Orcinus orca) and hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna sp.) in Galápagos waters. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals 5(1): 69-71.
  • DWYER, S. L. & VISSER, I. N. 2011. Cookie cutter shark (Isistius sp.) bites on cetaceans, with particular reference to killer whales (orca) (Orcinus orca). Aquatic Mammals, 37, 111-138.


  1. ^ Geoff Cumming (6 December 2010). "New Zealander of the Year Finalist: Dr Ingrid Visser". New Zealand Herald. 
  2. ^ "Scientific Articles". Orca Research Trust. 
  3. ^ Hutching, Gerard (9 July 2013). "Orcas - Feeding and other habits". Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Te Ara. 
  4. ^ "Free Morgan Foundation". Free Morgan. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  5. ^ Elizabeth Batt (10 December 2012). "Dr. Visser says park suing her over report submitted in court". Digital Journal. 
  6. ^ "Ingrid Visser". 
  7. ^ "Natural World, 2011-2012, The Woman Who Swims with Killer Wales". BBC Two. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 

External links[edit]