As a boy growing up in the 1950s, Steve Dawson discovered an abiding affinity with the sea. His family used to spend their summer holidays in the Northland seaside town of Matapōuri, and there he learned the joy of boating and fishing.
Early in his university career he knew that he wanted to study marine biology and animal behaviour. He was particularly interested in the communication systems of whales and dolphins.
Dawson teamed up with partner Liz Slooten to focus on Hector's dolphin. During the summer of 1984–85 the couple motored their 3.9-metre inflatable boat around 4,500 nautical miles of coastline for the first in-depth survey of the dolphin.
Aware of the conservation aspect of their study, they have advocated the protection of the ‘downunder dolphin’, heading the campaign to create a marine mammal sanctuary around Banks Peninsula. As Otago University lecturers, they supervise a steady stream of postgraduates who contribute to a growing body of research about marine mammals.
Te whakamahi i tēnei tūemi
Photograph by Rohan Currey
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