top of page

(c) Jonathan Lueker


Very little is known about Whale Sharks in Hawai‘i. The researchers at Hawai‘i Uncharted Research Collective (HURC) started this non-profit organization for this very reason. Anecdotally, whale sharks have been sighted islands-wide in near-coastal and off-shore waters. Not much is known about how many individuals frequent our waters, their distribution, or where they travel when they are not sighted here. In the coming months and years, our researchers hope to answer some of these questions and look forward to sharing our findings with the local and global community.

HURC is thrilled to be collaborating with leading whale shark researcher, Dr. Dení Ramírez Macías, director of Whale Shark Mexico 


Photo Identification

Project Start Date: September 25, 2017

Whale sharks have unique identifiers that allow scientists to recognize distinct individuals within a population. A database of individuals will allow us to document specific information relative to each whale shark and establish a baseline and history of sightings in Hawai'i.

To learn more: click here

To view our whale shark catalog: click here

Population Dynamics & Movement

Project Start Date: September 25, 2017

Everyone seems to want to know, when is it most likely to see a whale shark in Hawai‘i? In other places around the world, whale sharks visit with a known seasonality but so far this doesn’t seem to be in the case in Hawai‘i. Our long-term data will help to discover population dynamics and if there are certain times of the year or seasons in which whale sharks are more likely to be spotted than others.

International Cross-matching

Project Start Date: September 25, 2017

Collaborations with multiple international organizations allows us to compare our catalog to other databases around the world. Stay tuned to see if any of our Hawaiian individuals are being spotted by other researchers globally. 

As of March 2018, HURC is managing the Hawaii database for Wildbook for Whale Sharks, allowing our team to cross-match with whale sharks all over the world.

Laser Photogrammetry & Morphometrics

Project Start Date: March 23, 2018

In order to get a clearer picture of size distributions, growth rates, and size at maturity of individuals found in Hawaiian waters, more precise measurements need to be taken. Laser photogrammetry is a non-invasive tool used in the marine megafauna world to more accurately determine morphometrics.

This project is supported [in part] by funds from the PADI Foundation.

Satellite Tagging

Project Start Date: November 17, 2019

Where are our whale sharks coming from or going to? HURC is teaming up with Hawai'i Schools to promote the conservation of whale sharks and our oceans. In order to get a clearer picture of how whale sharks use our state and nearby waters,  the use of various satellite tags will allow us to better understand their movement in turn give us a clearer picture of how we can protect whale sharks globally. This project will be continuous and funded through grants, donations, and partnerships.

Some tags are supported [in part] by the Georgia Aquarium.


Aerial Surveys

Project Start Date: TBD

This project is on our radar for a more expanded population density project.

Funding and plane availability is required for this project. 


Please contact us if you would like to donate or volunteer.

Plastic Bag in Ocean
Microplastics & Biotoxins

Project Start Date: TBD

This project is on our radar for the future of HURC.

Funding and equipment is dependent for this project. 


Please contact us if you would like to donate or volunteer.


Genetic Studies

Project Start Date: April 26, 2019

This project is a molecular approach to understanding whale shark biology and population structure across all three ocean basins. By collecting whale shark samples from many different countries this enables a robust representation of whale sharks from all of the worlds oceans. This research is aiming to genetically characterize the global population of whale sharks to promote understanding of their connectivity and movements between aggregations in order to inform regional conservation managers. Hawai'i is a key site due to 1) its remoteness and 2) its position between two already sampled populations either side of the Pacific ocean, the Philippines and the Galapagos.

This on-going project is in partnership with Marine Megafauna Foundation and Ph.D candidate Alex Watts. 

Oceanic Whitetip Shark: determination of population structure and size

Project Start Date: December 01, 2018

Hawai’i Uncharted Research Collective is teaming up with


This is a project led by shark researcher Dr. Melanie Hutchinson on a new effort to track and monitor local populations of Oceanic Whitetip sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus). Through photo identifcation, we will be creating a database of the known individuals off the Kona Coast using current and historical photos to help understand population size and structure of this threatened shark species.

Click to view:

bottom of page