Research projects

The main goal of our research is to generate baseline biological data necessary to develop successful management plans for the conservation of marine mammals populations and their habitat in Panama.

Humpback whales and other marine
mammals of Chiriqui

Since 2002 Panacetacea has been conducting surveys for marine mammals in the Chiriqui Gulf. Our main objective is to monitor two different humpback whale populations that both use Chiriqui as a wintering area: one migrating from feeding areas off Antarctica and Chile and are seen between July and October, and one migrating from feeding areas off the west coast of the US and are seen between December and April. We document habitat use, behaviors, take identification photos, record song, and collect biopsy samples We’ve also documented other species of marine mammals, including Bryde’s whales, and four species of odontocetes.

Dolphins of
Bocas del Toro

Since 2004 we have been working in Bocas del Toro studying the ecology, behavior, and genetics of a resident population of bottlenose dolphins. We also study the potential impact of human activities on the animals and their habitat. Our work has demonstrated that Bocas dolphins are negatively impacted by direct interactions with tour boats. Our reports to the International Whaling Commission and to the Panamanian Government have helped government officials to become more aware of the situation.


The ONDAS initiative is a remote underwater acoustic surveillance network that records the soundscape of several marine communities. Data collected through this initiative can generate acoustic measures of biodiversity, flagship species abundance, and ambient noise levels, as indicators of community health.
The goal of this initiative is to provide stakeholders in Central America with the tools and information to evaluate the effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas. The initiative aims to facilitate timely decisions on conservation planning by promoting connectivity and research. This will allow us to better assess the economic value of these areas and enhance awareness of marine conservation in the region.

Panacetacea Small Grants Program

Beca Panacetacea 2022

Wendy Mendoza (El Salvador)

Melvin Castaneda (El Salvador)

Milagros Gonzalez (Panamá)

Ester Quintana Rizzo (Guatemala)

Ana Lucía Escobar (Guatemala)

José David Palacios (Costa Rica)

Panacetacea’s Small Grants program will support Central American students and researchers studying marine mammals in Central America.

The goal of this program is to support research, outreach, education, and professional development. Applicants can use grant money for the following: purchase of equipment, educational expenses including tuition, survey related expenses, travel to study sites, travel and lodging to international or regional conferences, stipends for interns and field assistants, and for the development of technical workshops and training on standards of conduct for whale watching activities.

Eligibility: Applicants must be nationals of and conducting research in at least one of the following countries: Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Applicants must be affiliated with an educational institution or a non-governmental institution conducting research, education, or conservation.

Grant Size: Maximum amount for travel to conferences is $700, maximum amount for all other purposes is $1500.

Applications are due May 1, and decisions will be made by June 15, 2022