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Mexico’s Whales are Winning as Everyday Heroes Work Together with Katherina Audley (Episode #172)

Katherina Audley is a National Geographic Explorer and whale researcher who has found a way to build community and restore the natural world in unique ways. She has helped a small village in Mexico come together to support the rare ecosystem that surrounds them, building a prosperous future for everyone—even in places as far away as Kenya!



About Our Guest:

Katherina Audley fell in love with whales back in 1997, but it wasn’t until she had been working for them for sixteen years that she decided to dedicate her life to them and the communities of Barra de Potosí. Fast forward to 2013, Katherina became the founder and director of the Whales of Guerrero (WoG), a community-driven research, education, and training program based in southwest Pacific Mexico, just south of the twin cities of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. While her initial interests were in establishing long-term monitoring of the local whale populations with a responsible marine management system, she quickly realized that the means to that end was to make sure the people prospered right alongside the whales.

Katherina is the best kind of modern-day explorer. Instead of searching for hidden treasure, she searches for something even more precious: the secrets of the ocean, and how coastal communities can thrive together with their aquatic neighbors. 

Her journey is an example of what’s possible when we find our passion and dream big. In 1997, she fell in love with the gentle giants out in the bay, and decided to do something audacious: stop working directly with the whales, and start working with people who live with them. She saw the potential in the people and surroundings, and committed to staying there to do the work that needed doing. 

Katherina Audley has not only devoted her life to exploring the wonders of our natural world, she is also working tirelessly to protect it, and she’s taking an entire community along with her. By finding a way to make connections between the people and the whales who share that little corner of the world, she ended up providing a blueprint that will help the rest of the planet.

Her work with Whales of Guerrero has been so impressive that the UN and other organizations around the world consider it a replicable model for its collaborative approach to marine conservation. Katherina is not keeping this knowledge to herself, either; she’s sharing her people-led approach to marine conservation through her writing, workshops, talks, documentaries, and learning exchanges worldwide, so that other communities—both human and whale—can benefit from what she’s learned.

It’s that big-picture vision for success that earned Katherina Audley the National Geographic Explorer moniker. That’s a big deal! It means she’s been recognized by one of the most respected organizations in the world for her dedication to understanding and protecting both the planet and the people who live on it.

Katherina’s project is special because it’s not just about whales; it’s about earning the trust of the people who interact with them most often. For more than a decade now, she has led efforts in the fishing village of Barra de Potosí that have resulted in steady successes: increasing ecotourism-related work opportunities; maintaining a community-led approach to all scientific and other programs; and teaching 2000+ local youth each year about marine mammals and the importance of marine biodiversity. 

Imagine a beautiful place in Mexico, known for its stunning beaches and cerulean seas, that has become more than a vacation spot for people. It’s a playground for some of the most magnificent creatures on Earth—humpback whales and dolphins—and it’s also home to people that welcome visitors into their homes for cooking lessons, takes people on eco-walks in the mangroves, and generally embraces guests with an amazing level of warmth and access to local traditions. Due in no small part to Katherina’s efforts, that place is now real.

This success story proves the famous quote: 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

– Margaret Meed

One of the greatest messages Katherina imparts is that ALL our life experiences—no matter how strange—will be useful when building up to the moment when you find your purpose. She has been a professional fisherman in Alaska, and a Go-Go Dancer in Greece, a starving artist, a travel writer, and more, and it all is serving her success right now, sometimes in ways she would never have expected.

In this episode, we share some amazing insights on: 

  • Who you should talk to first if you want to make change (Hint: it’s not the people in power!)
  • The simple power of good food and drink in bringing people together
  • The importance of kitchen table and front stoop conversations before big group meetings.
  • How to prioritize your way to an environmental goal. (It’s always got to be people first.)

Get ready to be inspired by Katherina Audley, the National Geographic Explorer who’s making a profound impact on both nature and communities. In her story, you might see one of your own!

References Mentioned:


  • 00:00 – Intro & Welcome
  • 04:18 – Discovering a Passion for Whales
  • 11:11 – Building Eco-Tourism and Community Engagement
  • 12:03 – The Importance of Education and Youth Engagement
  • 17:14 – Achieving Significant Environmental and Social Impact
  • 28:25 – Break
  • 31:04 – Katherina’s Eclectic Background
  • 45:16 – The Power of Whales as Good News Stories
  • 52:57 – All Change is Local: The Importance of Community Engagement
  • 59:24 – How You Can Get Involved and Help
  • 1:06:31 – Closing

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