Who We Are

ScD Dení Ramírez Macías Director and researcher of Whale Shark México, she is a Conservation Biologist, with a vision to promote and contribute to ocean conservation and sustainability by the integration of scientific research, sustainable management, environmental education and inter-institutional collaboration.

She started the study of the whale shark in the Gulf of California and continues with research. Over the past ten years she has built, with a group of colleagues, a whale shark network in the Gulf of California, and surrounding areas with the vision to promote regional conservation of the species.

Her doctoral thesis addressed global whale shark population genetics to determine how many populations exist worldwide. She collaborated with other scientists and went to the Philippines to collect tissue samples.

Her ScD also includes an understanding of population ecology and abundance of the whale sharks at Holbox Island, in Mexico, which is the biggest aggregation ever reported, as well as the population ecology and abundance of whale sharks from the Gulf of California. With collaborators, she established migratory patterns for the juveniles in the Gulf of California and proposed that the Gulf of California is a whale shark primary nursery and a critical habitat of these gentle giants.

Currently in Mexico, there are two protected areas based on the whale shark (one in Quintana Roo and other in Bahia de Los Angeles, Baja California) and her research has been used in these protection management plans.

Her research continues to focus on the migratory patterns of whale sharks in the Gulf of California and surrounding areas. She recently advised a local community from Nayarit to start whale shark monitoring at this locality and collaborated with ecOceánica, an NGO from Peru, in the baseline research of this country with the aim to see if there is any connectivity between Mexico and Peru, and generate a regional conservation plan.

Dení has been working closely with the Mexican government in its program to manage and conserve the whale sharks in Mexican waters. They have been training the tourist companies of La Paz in order to create a sustainable whale shark tourist activity.

Dení has presented her research at numerous International Conferences. Her research is also part of a film on Chinese television to generate greater awareness of the importance for preserving this shark, the concept that a live whale shark has more value than a dead whale shark. This message about protecting marine animals is circulating in China, which is the largest consumer of whale sharks and their fins.

Dení grew up enjoying and loving the ocean and her passion has always been conservation. She believes that the conservation of whale sharks can help to promote the conservation of other endangered species and the ocean. As a scientist, she believes that knowledge is fundamental for conservation. (see her publications).


Maritza Cruz Castillo:  Maritza is a student of Marine Biology at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS), dedicated to the study of sharks, she has participated in different monitoring programs, both terrestrial and marine, of elasmobranch species. She is currently working on her thesis about the tourism carrying capacity of whale sharks in the La Paz Bay, B.C.S. and she is part of the Whale Shark Mexico team, coordinating Ecology Project International (EPI) students’ trips and other monitoring fieldtrips.


Brisa del Mar Higuera Quiñonez: Brisa is a seventh semester student of Marine Biology at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS) and she is part of the Whale Shark Mexico team. She is interested in whale shark behavior changes caused by anthropogenic activities such as tourism. She is also interested in environmental education. It is a very active person, she loves to go to the beach to swim.


Valeria Maturino: is a graduated veterinary student from the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS). She has been part of Whale Shark Mexico since 2013, starting during her social service, and as a volunteer in environmental educational programs. Currently she is developing her thesis on the topic: “Evaluating the presence of pesticides on whale shark tissue samples from bay of La Paz”. -My first experience with whale shark was unforgettable and influenced me, I want to preserve and learn more about these gentle giant and beautiful sharks I’ve ever met- Valeria


Rossana Maguiño (MSc): is a biologist from Peru. She earned her master’s degree in México and currently she is an assistant in Whale Shark México projects. She is has been in the field collecting whale shark data on in the Gulf of California supporting Dr. Dení Ramírez in her research. During this time she also learned to make use of the photo-identification library and to generate the data necessary for further analysis. She coordinates Whale Shark Mexico and ecOceánica in order to develop and extend the whale shark project to Peru.


R.J. Archer is the author of 7 novels and moved from the USA to La Paz in 2009. He is now a Permanent Resident of Mexico and helps edit English-language documents created by Whale Shark Mexico.


Simon Hilbourne is a MSci marine biology student at the university of Southampton in the UK. He joined Whale Shark Mexico out in La Paz this summer to collect data for his dissertation research project looking at the oceanographic and atmospheric drivers of whale shark seasonality in the bay of La Paz. Simon is an enthusiastic marine biologist, conservationist and diver. He fell in love with the ocean whilst learning to dive in Thailand as child and has since dived all around the world. Simon is also a keen amateur underwater photographer and hopes to one day incorporate his passion for underwater photography and diving with his love for marine wildlife and conservation.



“PEJESAPO”. A group of community monitoring of whale shark in Bahía de Los Ángeles: This group is comprised of five members from Bahía de Los Ángeles, with Abraham Vazquez at the head. The group has been supported by CONANP since 2004 through Programa de Conservación para el Desarrollo Sostenible (PROCODES, Sustainable Development Conservation Program). Since 2008 they have taken on the management duties of whale sharks inside the Marine Reserve, which includes habitat monitoring (biology and oceanography variables), and promotes the rules for whale shark sighting through the Community Program PROVICOM from CONANP. Also, they collaborate with Whale Shark Mexico estimating abundance and migratory patterns of the species at the Gulf of California.

“CHACON”. A group of community monitoring of whale shark in Nayarit: This group is comprised of members of the community of Nayarit and from the University of Nayarit. The members include Ricardo Murillo, Roberto Mata and Victor Hugo Luja. The group has been supported by CONANP since 2013 through Programa de Conservación para el Desarrollo Sostenible (PROCODES, Sustainable Development Conservation Program). Dení Ramírez has been training and supporting them to develop this program.  At present, Gala Esmeralda Pelayo Del Real is a graduate student. They also collaborate with Whale Shark Mexico by estimating the abundance of the species at Nayarit and the identification of whale sharks in the Gulf of California.

ecOceanica: is a non-profit organization registered in Peru. It was founded in 2009 by four biologists with much experience in marine conservation and applied research. Its staff is composed of a multidisciplinary group of professionals including biologists, social communicators, environmental educators, journalists, lawyers and chemical engineers. Since the beginning, ecOceánica has focused its research and conservation efforts in northern Peru. There, it has established a long term conservation program for sea turtles in collaboration with the local fishermen and the community. ecOceánica has integrated scientific research, sustainable management, environmental education and inter-institutional collaboration. Whale Shark Mexico and ecOceanica will start the project: “Evaluate the presence of whale shark Rhincodon typus off Peru”, the purpose of this project is to generate critical baseline information on whale sharks off Peru.

Hawai‘i Uncharted Research Collective is a newly founded non-profit organization conducting scientific research on whale sharks in the state of Hawai’i. Based in the sleepy town of Kona, the HURC team is thrilled to begin this journey with the local and international communities. Their vision is to merge citizen science, community education, and scientific research in collaboration to learn more about whale sharks sighted around the Hawaiian islands and use this knowledge to advance global conservation efforts.


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