Oceanwide Science Institute

Nai’a Kuwili Project

Hawaiian spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris), or Nai’a, are among the most commonly sighted marine mammal species in Hawaii. Their daily behavioral cycle is characterized by nighttime foraging on vertically migrating organisms (fish, shrimp & squid) along island slopes and daytime resting in nearshore waters and in protected bays. As a result of their daytime affinity to coastal waters, spinner dolphins have become a popular viewing attraction for both the public and commercial eco-tour operators. This interest, coupled with the dolphins’ need for daytime rest, has led to concerns about the long-term impact of chronic human interactions on local dolphin populations and has resulted in public debate about how to balance public and commercial interests with the well being of the dolphins.

OSI’s Nai’a Kuwili Project is a long-term study of spinner dolphins resident along inshore waters around Hawaii. The project’s goals are to learn about the behavior and ecology of this species and determine the effects of human interactions on local populations and their habitat. Between 1998 and 2010 the project’s efforts were focused on studying the behavior of the spinner dolphin population occurring off the island of Oahu. Beginning in 2013, OSI’s focus shifted to the spinner dolphins in the Maui Nui region (Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe). Current research efforts are focused on using vessel-based field surveys and the deployment of Ecological Acoustic Recorders to study and monitor the long-term occurrence of spinner dolphins at various locations off Maui and Lanai. The data obtained will be used to infer spatial and temporal patterns of occurrence in order to learn about the dolphins’ resting and feeding habits, seasonal trends in coastal use, and the effects of human activities, such as vessel traffic and dolphin-watching.

This project relies entirely on the generous support of the local community and our sponsors.  Please consider making a financial contribution to help offset our field and data analysis costs! To donate, please visit our support page.


Lammers M.O. and Au W.W.L. (2003). “Directionality in the whistles of Hawaiian spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris): A signal feature to cue direction of movement?” Mar. Mamm. Sci. 19:249-264.  DOWNLOAD PDF

Lammers, M.O. (2004). “Occurrence and behavior of Hawaiian spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) along Oahu’s leeward and south shores.” Aqua. Mamm. 30:237-250.  DOWNLOAD PDF

Lammers, M.O., Schotten, M. and Au, W.W.L. (2006). “The spatial context of whistle and click production in pods of Hawaiian spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris).” J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 119: 1244-1250.  DOWNLOAD PDF