Roger Payne

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Roger Searle Payne (born January 29, 1935 in New York City ) is an American zoologist, bioacousticist, whale researcher and activist for the conservation of whales.


Payne graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor's degree and received her PhD in zoology from Cornell University . He was an Assistant Professor of Biology at Rockefeller University and the Institute for Research in Animal Behavior of Rockefeller University and the New York Zoological Society. Initially, under Donald Griffin , he dealt with the echolocation of bats (and how moths recognize and react to them) and the acoustic orientation of owls.

Payne is best known for the LP Songs of the Humpback Whale with songs of male humpback whales in the mating season, which first appeared in 1970, was very successful and had a great impact on whale conservation. He first explored the humpback whale song in 1967 with Scott McVay and was a pioneer in it. He discovered that the male humpback whales sing together during the rutting season in repetitive stanzas typical of the season, with a song lasting up to half an hour. Payne was also the first to suggest that blue whales and fin whales could use their sounds to communicate across oceans. He undertook numerous whale watching expeditions around the world, developed methods used by other researchers for their observation and pursued long-term programs for the observation of whales, especially whale songs of humpback whales and the long-term observation of 1,300 Argentine right whales . He is the author of films and books about whales, including the IMAX film Whales . Two of his films received Emmy nominations.

In 1971 he founded the Ocean Alliance in Lincoln (Massachusetts) to protect whales and research. He supports the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society .

In 1984 he received a MacArthur Award . In 2010 he became an honorary member of the Society of Marine Mammology. He is a Knight of the Dutch Order of the Golden Ark , received the $ 120,000 Lyndhurst Prize Fellowship, the Albert Schweitzer Medal from the Animal Welfare Institute, the Joseph Wood Krutch Medal from the Human Society of America and a Global 500 Award from the UN.

In addition to Songs of the Humpback Whales , he released two records with whale songs or based on whale songs: Deep Voices (1975) with the musician Paul Winter and Whales Alive (1989), where musicians interpret the whale compositions. He also produced a CD of whale songs for one of his National Geographic Articles, which had a circulation of 10.5 million.

He was married twice. From his first marriage from 1960 to his divorce in 1985 with the biologist Katharine Boynton (specializing in elephant communication, but she also worked with Roger Payne on whale songs) he has four children. In 1990 he was married to the New Zealand actress Lisa Harrow in his second marriage .


  • Among Whales , Scribner 1995
  • with Scott McVay: Songs of Humpback Whales , Science, Volume 173, 1971, pp. 585-597
  • with Katherine Payne: Large scale changes over 19 years in songs of humpback whales in Bermuda , Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie, Volume 68, 1985, pp. 89-114
  • Editor and co-author: Communication and Behavior of Whales , Westview Press, Boulder 1983

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Amy Kerr: Roger Payne and Iain Kerr Speak at Sea Shepherd Summit. Retrieved January 5, 2015 .