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A traveling exhibition about the sounds and songs of life

Dr. Roger Payne

Roger Payne

Roger Payne Photo Credit: Iain Kerr/Ocean Alliance

Dr. Roger Payne external link icon is best known for his discovery (with Scott McVay) that humpback whales sing songs and for his theory that the sounds of fin and blue whales can be heard across oceans. He has studied the behavior of whales since 1967 and is founder and President of the Ocean Alliance. He holds a BA degree from Harvard University and a PhD from Cornell.

He has led over 100 expeditions to all oceans and has studied every species of large whale in the wild. He pioneered many of the benign research techniques now used throughout the world to study free-swimming whales and has trained many of the current leaders in whale research, both in America and abroad. He directs long-term research projects on the songs of humpback whales and on the behavior of 1,300 individually-known Argentine right whales in the longest continuous study of its kind.

Payne publishes technical articles and also writes for general audiences. One of his three articles in National Geographic Magazine contained a small vinyl record of whale sounds. 10.5 million copies were pressed -- still the largest single order in the history of the recording industry. His publications include the book Among Whales (1995) and three recordings: Songs of the Humpback Whale (1970 -- the best selling natural history recording ever released), Deep Voices (1975), and, with musician Paul Winter, Whales Alive (1989 -- compositions composed by whales but arranged and played by humans). Payne has lectured at most major universities in the US and England and has appeared on many TV and radio talk shows. He is a writer and presenter for television documentaries and co-writer and co-director of the IMAX film Whales, a co-production of The National Wildlife Federation, Destination Cinema, and Zephyr Productions (Payne's company). Much of the material in this film is based on Payne's research.

Payne's honors and awards include: a knighthood in the Netherlands, a MacArthur Fellowship, the similar Lyndhurst Prize Fellowship, the Joseph Wood Krutch Medal of the Humane Society of the US, The Albert Schweitzer Medal of the Animal Welfare Institute (shared with Katharine Payne) and a United Nations "Global 500" Award. His films have received seven awards, including two Emmy nominations, and he earned an Emmy for his "best interview" with Charlie Rose.