Studying killer whales in the wild is expensive work. Transportation, equipment costs, boat maintenance and fuel are just some of the many daily costs faced by researchers in the field. By taking out a membership in the Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program, you’ll help defray these costs and become a key partner in the killer whale research effort.


Research Team

The Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program supports the work of the Cetacean Research Lab at the Vancouver Aquarium. Meet our team!

Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard - Head, Cetacean Research Program

Lance Barrett-Lennard's family emigrated from Australia when he was 11 years of age to settle in southern Ontario. He completed high school in Waterloo and a BSc in biology at the University of Guelph before moving to British Columbia. For the next seven years, Lance and his wife Kathy worked on lighthouses (Lawyer Island, Chatham Point and Boat Bluff) where they became fascinated by killer whales and other marine mammals. After leaving the lights, Lance worked in the marine mammal research section of the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo before beginning graduate studies in the Zoology Department at UBC. After finishing his PhD, Lance worked as a research scientist for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, until moving to the Vancouver Aquarium in 2001.

Lance has been an active collaborator in ongoing studies of the behavioural and population biology of killer whales in British Columbia and Alaska since 1984, and has also studied the species in Norway, Spain and the sub-Antarctic. A molecular geneticist, he uses DNA analysis to better understand population divisions, dispersal patterns, and mating systems. Some highlights of his research include showing that at least nine genetically discrete overlapping populations of killer whales inhabit the northeastern Pacific Ocean. He also showed that the fish-eating  resident form of killer whale avoids inbreeding through an elaborate clan-based mating system. Several years ago, his findings  served as the basis for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada’s listing of southern resident killer whales as an endangered population, and more recently he co-chaired an expert panel which produced a comprehensive recovery strategy for resident killer whales.  He spends much of the spring and summer months in research boats in the coastal waters of British Columbia and Alaska. In addition to killer whales, Lance is involved in research on baleen whales, dolphins, sea otters and belugas. He also heads up the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, located at the Vancouver Aquarium, and supervises graduate students in his capacity as adjunct professor (zoology) at the University of British ColumbiaClick here for a list of recent publications.


Dr. Valeria Vergara - Arctic Marine Mammal Research Scientist

Born in Argentina, Valeria moved to Canada in 1989 to continue pursuing her passion for biology, aided by a full scholarship from the Canadian International Development Agency. Since her early years as an undergraduate she has participated in a broad range of wildlife studies, including coyotes in Montana (her B.Sc. honors thesis), grey wolves in Minnesota, red foxes in Ontario (her M.Sc. thesis), Darwin foxes in Chile, baboons in Kenya, humpback whales in Newfoundland, killer whales in Alaska, Guiana dolphins in Colombia, and for the past number of years beluga whales in Canada.  Valeria joined the Cetacean Research Lab in 2002 as a graduate student, continued on as a research associate for several years, and is currently a research scientist. Her doctorate research, through the University of British Columbia, was the first to document how beluga calves develop their rich repertoires of sounds, and to identify critical calls used to maintain group cohesion and mother-calf contact. Her work has taken her to the Nelson River Estuary (Hudson Bay), the St Lawrence River Estuary and Cunningham Inlet in the Canadian High Arctic. Her current beluga research addresses the problems these sound-centered animals face in their increasingly noisy environment. 


Meghan Moore- Program Coordinator and Research Biologist

Meghan Moore joined the Cetacean Research Lab in 2008 and divides her time as Program Coordinator for the Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program and research biologist.  In the Cetacean Research Lab Meghan coordinated a long-term study of the vocal ontogeny of belugas at the Vancouver Aquarium and assists with other onsite research and field work projects.  Meghan holds a BSc in Biology from the University of Saskatchewan and has a second diploma in Renewal Resources: Fish, Wildlife and Recreation from the BC Institute of Technology.  Before joining the Cetacean Research Lab Meghan worked for many years as a whale watch naturalist and field research technician in British Columbia.

Carla Crossman - Conservation Genetics Coordinator and Research Biologist

Carla joined the Cetacean Research Lab in 2014. Her main responsibility is managing our Conservation Genetics Lab, but she also assists with other ongoing research projects. Carla holds an MSc in Zoology from the University of British Columbia where she studied population structure and hybridization in harbour porpoises. Carla previously worked as a field assistant and naturalist on various projects in the United States and throughout Canada.

Tessa Danelesko - Coordinator, B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network

Tessa Danelesko was raised in Calgary, Alberta and fell in love with the ocean during summers spent exploring the shores of Vancouver Island. Following her dream of living on the West Coast, she attended the University of Victoria and completed the Combined Biology and Psychology BSc program. Tessa’s experience working and volunteering for a variety of marine conservation and research projects has taken her around the globe. She is currently the Coordinator of the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, a project that collects opportunistic sightings of whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea turtles from the coast of British Columbia.

Caitlin Birdsall- Coordinator, North Coast Initiative

Caitlin joined the Cetacean Research Lab in 2008.  Her main responsibility is coordinating the North Coast Initiative, a northern node to promote and expand the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network.  Established in 2014 and based in Prince Rupert, the initiative aims to create a community-based cetacean research program in the North that allows for better long-term monitoring of an area that has previously had less intensive research than more southerly areas of the coast.  She holds a BSc in Wildlife Biology and has worked previously as a field assistant, naturalist and educator in Australia and throughout British Columbia.  

Chad Nordstrom - Research Assistant

Chad joined the Cetacean Research Lab late in 2012. His responsibilities include managing data for the BC Cetacean Sightings Network and supporting onsite research and field work projects. Chad holds an MSc in Zoology from the University of British Columbia where he studied the links between oceanographic conditions and the at-sea foraging of northern fur seals. Before returning to grad school, Chad worked as a technician with the Marine Mammal Research Unit’s Steller sea lion team and with the Canadian Wildlife Service’s polar bear program.       

Bailey Eagan - Research Analyst

Bailey joined the Cetacean Research Lab in 2014 as a Research Analyst. Most of Bailey’s work is with the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, though she also supports various onsite projects. Additionally, Bailey is helping to lead a land-based whale watching initiative in B.C. involving dedicated partners across the coast.  Bailey holds a BSc in Biology from Queen’s University. Previously, she has interned at the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre and has worked as a Research Assistant tagging seven-gill sharks in San Francisco.

Allyson Miscampbell- Genetics Research Scientist

Allyson works as a research scientist at the Vancouver Aquarium Discovery Lab and at the Genetic Data Center at UBC. Since 2000 she has been analyzing DNA from tissue samples from killer whales and other marine mammals collected in the field by Lance Barrett-Lennard and his colleagues. She holds an MSc in Zoology from UBC where her previous research focused on fish parasites.