Sonar: The Next Wave in Cetacean Activism

Sonar is a think-tank, advocacy and research organization that explores human relations with the more-than-human world. We recognize that dolphins and whales, being charismatic and inquisitive species with cultures of their own, can reveal and help resolve the logical inconsistencies in ways modern human culture perceives our ecological and interspecies relations. Our goal is to promote increased understanding and compassion toward other animals, other nature, and our own species.

We believe that a diversity of approaches, considerations and tactics is necessary in order to effectively achieve our stated goals. Sonar’s various scientific, educational, advocacy, art and interspecies community-building projects incorporate the foundational ideas outlined below:

  • A shift in dominant Western cultural framing of the world is necessary.
  • We recognize the existing rights and intrinsic worth of nature and individuals of all species.
  • We support multi-species communities, both coastal and land-based, in which humans share land, air and seascapes with other species collaboratively and with mutual respect.
  • We find no justification for using cetaceans or other animals as instruments or objects of commerce, entertainment, or invasive research.
  • We are demonstrating that ecological and interspecies relations and research can, and should, be dictated by terms other than domination and submission; and instead embrace terms of collaboration, partnership and reciprocity.

Our Pod

  • Toni Frohoff PhD

    Co-Founder, Director of Human-Cetacean Interactions & Communication Research

    Dr. Toni Frohoff, Ph.D, is a behavioral and wildlife biologist who has been studying marine mammal behavior and communication for over 30 years. Dr. Frohoff specializes in communication, psychology and wellbeing of captive and free-ranging dolphins. She was co-editor of the anthology, Between Species: Celebrating the Dolphin-Human Bond (Sierra Club Books, 2003) and Dolphin Mysteries: Unlocking the Secrets of Communication (2008, Yale University Press), and has contributed chapters to over a dozen books. She also lectures widely, including The Smithsonian Institute and TED Global Conference in Oxford.

    Dr. Frohoff’ work for government and non-profit agencies has contributed to the revision and implementation of management and legislation protecting marine mammals in captivity and in the wild in more than a dozen countries. Her research is frequently featured in the media (including a New York Times Magazine cover story, Santa Barbara Magazine, NPR, Smithsonian, Discovery Channel and Time magazines and Animal Planet and National Geographic).

    She co-founded the newly-formed POD (Protect Our Dolphins) in Santa Barbara, California where she lives and has co-founded the Terramar Research Institute of Learning where students study new and emerging fields of science such as Interspecies Psychology and Ecology and engage in Wild Wisdom.

    Click here for a list of Toni’s publications.

  • Laura Bridgeman

    Co-Founder, Director

    Hailing from Ottawa, Canada, Laura’s career in environmental and animal activism is driven by life-long questions regarding humanity’s fraught relationship with “nature”.  Her work has focussed on the ethics of using other-than-human animals, anti-captivity issues and Marine Protected Areas advocacy.



  • Elizabeth Oriel

    Co-Founder, Research Fellow and Writer

    Elizabeth Oriel earned a MSc in Conservation Biology and a BA in Russian Language and Literature. She founded and directs the Co-Habitation Institute, which studies and supports positive models of human and non-human animal co-habitation. Initial projects focus on coastal systems in western coastal Scotland and Ireland. She writes on the themes of co-habitation, personhood and communication among humans and non-humans, and studies and develops holistic concepts of animal wellbeing. One research project characterizes aspects of wellbeing for harbor seals, which has practical applications for care in rehabilitation centers.

    Elizabeth integrates philosophy, anthropology, and ethology in her writing and research, finding that the intersection of multiple disciplines offers broader perspectives of non-human animal and human wellbeing, livelihoods, and communication. Inspired by the work of Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, she seeks to discover hidden elements of colonization in our language, and uncover what a language of mutual thriving would be like and sound like. She is also organizing a series of poetry slam events and writing workshops for young people to explore their relationships to marine life and natural systems.

    Elizabeth is writing a science fiction novel about human/non-human animal relations, Cat Women of the Gir, and recently published a volume of poetry, Inhabitants.

  • Zac Schwarz

    Co-Founder, Creative Director

    By day Zac spends his time helping brands and organisations get noticed through editorial and social media. By night he dreams of jacking it all in to live by the sea and run a B&B. Inspired by the movies The Cove and Blackfish Zac was compelled to take a much more active role in ocean issues. Getting in touch with Laura Bridgeman was the first step and a little over a year later Sonar was born. Zac’s role is to support with the creative development of Sonar and forthcoming awareness campaigns. He lives in London (at Sonar HQ) with his wife Laura, two dogs and is soon to be joined by their first child.

  • Ute Margreff

    Co-Founder, Dolphin Specialist

    Ute Margreff has perhaps spent more time in the water with wild cetaceans than nearly any other person alive today. She has formed relationships that are not only pioneering but instructive. She founded The Dolphinunivers that documents some of her work and relations with wild cetaceans. She has been studying solitary dolphins in the wild since 2000. Her research is conducted all year around and has brought her to places in various European countries. She has appeared in many publications including the Daily Mail, BBC, The Telegraph, Norddeutscher Rundfunk and many more. Her work continues to inspire and touch many people.

  • Marc Bekoff PhD

    Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is a former Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and co-founder with Jane Goodall of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. He has won many awards for his scientific research including the Exemplar Award from the Animal Behavior Society and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

    Marc has published more than 1000 essays (popular, scientific, and book chapters), 30 books, and has edited three encyclopedias. His books include the Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare, The Ten Trusts (with Jane Goodall), the Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior, the Encyclopedia of Human-Animal Relationships, Minding Animals, Animal Passions and Beastly Virtues: Reflections on Redecorating Nature, The Emotional Lives of Animals, Animals Matter, Animals at Play: Rules of the Game (a children’s book), Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals (with Jessica Pierce), The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons For Increasing Our Compassion Footprint, Ignoring Nature No More: The Case For Compassionate Conservation, Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears (with Jill Robinson), Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence, Emotions, Friendship, and Conservation, and Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence. The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson) was published in February 2015.

    In 2005 Marc was presented with The Bank One Faculty Community Service Award for the work he has done with children, senior citizens, and prisoners. In 2009 he was presented with the St. Francis of Assisi Award by the New Zealand SPCA. In 1986 Marc became the first American to win his age-class at the Tour du Haut Var bicycle race (also called the Master’s/age-graded Tour de France).

    You can find out more about Mark on his website, www.marcbekoff.com.

    You can find out more about the work Mark does with Jane Goodall of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on their website, www.ethologicalethics.org.




  • Thomas White PhD

    Thomas I. White is the Conrad N. Hilton Professor in Business Ethics and Director of the Center for Ethics and Business at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. Professor White received his doctorate in philosophy from Columbia University and taught at Upsala College and Rider University in New Jersey before moving to California in 1994. His publications include six books (Right and Wrong, Discovering Philosophy, Business Ethics, Men and Women at Work, In Defense of Dolphins and Socrates Comes to Wall Street) and numerous articles on topics ranging from sixteenth-century Renaissance humanism to business ethics.

    His primary research is on the philosophical implications–especially the ethical implications–of the scientific research on dolphins. His book on this topic (In Defense of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier [Blackwell Publishing, 2007]) addresses the ethical issues connected with human/dolphin interaction—for example, the deaths and injuries of dolphins in connection with the human fishing industry and the captivity of dolphins in the entertainment industry.

    Professor White is a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and a Scientific Advisor to the Wild Dolphin Project, a research organization studying a community of Atlantic spotted dolphins in the Bahamas. He served as U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations’ Year of the Dolphin Program in 2007-8. He was one of authors of the “Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans: Whales and Dolphins,” and a member of panels at that 2010 and 2012 meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that discussed the scientific evidence for the idea that dolphins are ‘nonhuman persons.’ He has also spoken against cetacean captivity at meetings of the American Cetacean Society.

  • Tema Milstein PhD

    Tema Milstein is an associate professor of Environment & Society at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and convenor of the Group’s Master’s program. Her research interests span the globe, examining ecocultural meaning systems and discourse, ecotourism and endangered wildlife, ecocultural activism, and ecoculture jamming. She is co-editor of the Routledge Handbook of Ecocultural Identity (2020) and Environmental Communication Pedagogy and Practice (Routledge, 2017). She has taught at universities in the United States, Australia, Italy, China, and New Zealand and served as University of New Mexico’s Presidential Teaching Fellow. Her aquatic work has focused on oceanic tourism discourse as a medium that reproduces and (potentially) transforms human-nature relations. She has conducted long-term ethnographic exploration of ecotourism around cetaceans, specifically endangered orcas, in US-Canada Pacific waters. As a former Fulbright Scholar in New Zealand, her ethnographic tourism studies expanded to examine swimming with wild dolphins in the open ocean.

    Visit Tema’s profile page with the University of New South Wales.

    Read her award-winning works at unm.academia.edu/TemaMilstein

    You also can join the conversation on her Facebook group, Ecocultural Communication.

  • David Abram PhD

    David Abram, cultural ecologist and geophilosopher, is the author of Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology (Pantheon, 2010), and The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World (Vintage, 1997). Hailed as “revolutionary” by the Los Angeles Times, as “daring” and “truly original” by Science, David’s work has been instrumental in catalyzing the emergence of several new disciplines, including the burgeoning field of ecopsychology. His essays on the cultural causes and consequences of environmental disarray are published in numerous magazines, scholarly journals, and anthologies.  A recipient of the international Lannan Literary Award, as well as fellowships from the Watson and Rockefeller Foundations, in 2014 David held the honorary Arne Naess Chair in Global Justice and the Environment at the University of Oslo.

    Dr. Abram’s work engages the ecological depths of the imagination, exploring the ways in which sensory perception, poetics, and wonder inform the relation between the human body and the breathing earth. Abram’s ideas have often been discussed and debated (sometimes heatedly) within the pages of various academic journals, including Environmental Ethics and the Journal of Environmental Philosophy.

    Among his various engagements, Dr. Abram and the Dalai Lama engaged in a large public exchange as part of the Arne Naess Symposium, in Oslo in 2014. Dr. Abram held a spirited public debate with distinguished biologist Edward O. Wilson, at Faneuil Hall in Boston, on the topic of science, ethics, and the future of environmentalism. And he delivered the final keynote for the United Nations sixtieth anniversary to 70 mayors from the largest cities around the world. The address was given under the towering redwood trees at Muir Woods, at the very spot where the United Nations charter had been signed into being exactly sixty years earlier.

    Director of the Alliance for Wild Ethics (AWE), David lives with his family in the foothills of the southern Rockies.

  • Susan Casey

    Susan Casey, author of the New York Times bestsellers Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins; The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean and The Devil’s Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America’s Great White Sharks. She is the former editor in chief of O, The Oprah Magazine. She is a National Magazine Award-winning journalist whose work has been featured in the Best American Science and Nature Writing, Best American Sports Writing, and Best American Magazine Writing anthologies; and has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, Outside, and National Geographic. Find more of her work at susancasey.com.

  • Jonathan Balcombe, PhD

    Jonathan Balcombe was born in England, raised in New Zealand and Canada, and has lived in the United States since 1987.

    He has three biology degrees, including a PhD in ethology (the study of animal behavior) from the University of Tennessee, where he studied communication in bats. He has published over 50 scientific papers on animal behavior and animal protection.

    Formerly Department Chair for Animal Studies with the Humane Society University, and Senior Research Scientist with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Jonathan is currently Director of Animal Sentience with the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy, in Washington, DC.

    He has published five books, including What A Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of our Underwater Cousins, The Exultant Ark: A Pictorial Tour of Animal Pleasure, Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals, Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good and The Use of Animals in Higher Education: Problems, Alternatives, and Recommendations, as well as many articles.

    In his spare time Jonathan enjoys biking, baking, birdwatching, piano, painting, and trying to understand the squirrels on his deck.

    Check out his website: jonathan-balcombe.com