International Women's Day 2019: In conversation with Dr. Naomi Rose


Dr. Naomi Rose is an accomplished marine mammal scientist, with several publications and projects which have directly impacted the lives of marine mammals.

You can’t think in terms of changing the world; that’s a sure way to either develop a massive ego or become powerfully discouraged. You can only do what is right.

This International Women's Day, we are excited to highlight Dr. Naomi Rose for her decades of impactful work helping to protect marine mammals across the globe. Dr. Rose is the lead author of our Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity report, which outlines scientific evidence and ethical arguments to support the case that it is unacceptable to house marine mammals in captivity for the purpose of public display and tourist entertainment. Click here to read the fifth and latest edition of the report, released today.

In conversation with Dr. Naomi Rose

Job title: Marine mammal scientist

Years working to protect animals: 34 years as a marine mammal biologist – 26 years as a marine mammal advocate

Animal you’d be for a day: An orca (I’d be one for a lifetime)

Favourite quote: "No evil lasts forever." - Ursula K. Le Guin

To start, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?

Aside from campaigning against cetacean live capture, trade, and captivity, I have been a member of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) Scientific Committee since 2000, working in the subcommittees on environmental concerns and whale watching. I have authored or co-authored over 45 scientific papers and articles for animal protection publications, as well as chapters in several books. I have participated in various conferences, workshops, meetings, and task forces at the international, national and state level. I have testified before the U.S. Congress four times, at the Canadian Parliament, and at several state legislative and regulatory hearings. My work was featured in the 2012 book Death at SeaWorld, by David Kirby, and I gave a TedX Talk in Bend, Oregon, in 2015 on captive orca welfare. I received my Ph.D. in biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1992; my dissertation examined the social dynamics of free-ranging orcas.

What inspired you to become a marine mammal scientist?

I watched a television special when I was 13, featuring Jacques Cousteau. Dolphins were playing at the bow of the Calypso (his research vessel) and I knew I wanted to be a dolphin biologist from that time forward.

What is the most memorable moment of your career?

This is honestly impossible to answer. I have so many memorable moments, with orcas in the field while I was a graduate student, with accomplishments in advocacy during the past 26 years. I genuinely cannot pick one. (I tend not to think this way – I don’t store memories as “I will always remember THIS moment” or “I will never forget THAT moment.” I tend to see my life holistically and to consider my life in terms of several years together.)

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?

You can’t think in terms of changing the world; that’s a sure way to either develop a massive ego or become powerfully discouraged. You can only do what is right – you can do that irrespective of “winning” or “losing.” And never take anything that happens to you personally!

What are you most proud of so far in your career?

That my actions and accomplishments have actually saved or improved the lives of several animals. Saving or improving the lives of animals is what I got into the animal advocacy field to do and the fact that I’ve actually done that a few times is all that matters.

Do you have any advice for young women beginning their careers?

Only care what people you respect think of you. Who cares what people you don’t respect think of you?

What do you like to do when you aren’t working to help animals?

I read, both history non-fiction and fantasy/sci-fi fiction. I love to travel.