Orca Research Trust, Photographer, Writer, Researcher


Ingrid is the seventh recipient to receive this Award and the first woman to be so honoured. I’m not sure when I first met Ingrid but I’m guessing it may have been during the halcyon days of the Ocean Conferences (1976–1990) which continued as the Oceans Underwater Photographic Competitions (1997–2003). She was a regular entrant in this prestigious competition. I note she picked up third place in Aquatic Topside in 1999 and reinforced her photographic credentials in 2002 by winning the Aquatic Topside section and Best New Zealand Image with a stunning image of a dolphin breaking through the surface of a mirrored sea.

We all knew her as the Orca Lady due to her dedicating her marine research to understand the orca families that roam New Zealand’s coastline. She established The Orca Project in the early 1990’s. Now know at the Orca Research Trust. She has become a world recognised authority on orca behaviour especially the orca in New Zealand. She has filmed underwater and topside behavior that has never been recorded before. Her research officially began in 1992 when she embarked on her life-long dream to study the orca. Since then she has worked with orca not only around New Zealand, but also in the waters of Antarctica, Argentina and Papua New Guinea.

Whilst travelling aboard eco-tourism ships or on private expeditions, she has also contributed to orca research projects in the Kamchatka region of Russia, Washington, Alaska and British Colombia off North America as well as Iceland (where she worked with the team releasing ‘Keiko’ the star of the Free Willy movies. Her work has appeared in various magazines and on numerous documentaries made for TV. She has written two children’s books as well as her autobiography Swimming with Orca, which was a finalist in the 2005 NZ Montana Book Awards.

Dr Visser’s research does not receive Government or University funding, but is run through the non-profit, Orca Research Trust, a New Zealand registered charity.

Dedicated to protecting the orca, Dr Visser believes in making science ‘consumable’ for the general public and as such she is often seen out in the community giving talks about these incredible apex predators. She works relentlessly monitoring the moment of orca families around New Zealand and has successfully organized saving stranded orca. Due to her spending thousands of hours studying and photographing New Zealand orca she can recognize each orca by their individual markings and has a name for each. A remarkable woman following her dream and in doing so she has contributed significantly to our understanding and appreciation of orca.

If you see orca give Ingrid a call at 0800 SEE ORCA

–Dave Moran

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