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.


Ocean Wise has a long tradition of research on cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). Our busy Marine Mammal Research Program is run by a twelve-person team in the Coastal Ocean Research Institute – an initiative of the non-profit Ocean Wise Conservation Organization. Our staff work from reseach offices situated in the Rudy North Marine Mammal Research Centre at the Vancouver Aquarium, a conservation genetics lab at the Pacific Science Enterprise Centre in West Vancouver and a North Coast Field Office in Prince Rupert, B.C.


Since the mid-1980s, the Marine Mammal Research Program has conducted conservation-oriented research on killer whales, belugas and other marine mammals. The Program’s particular strengths are in cetacean distribution and abundance, acoustic behaviour, population genetics and, most recently, photogrammetric monitoring of health and condition of killer whales and humpback whales. Much of this research is funded by the Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program, which raises funds through symbolic adoptions of B.C.’s killer whales.



 Our Research Programs: 

B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network

One of Canada’s longest-running and most successful citizen science programs. Since 1999, this program has collected opportunistic sightings of whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea turtles from coastal citizens to better inform researchers about the distribution, relative abundance and habitat use of these species in B.C. Learn more about the Sightings Network at

North Coast Cetacean Research Initiative

Based in Prince Rupert, the Initiative promotes the Sightings Network in Northern B.C., while monitoring cetacean populations in the region through field research and citizen science.

Conservation Genetics

Our Conservation Genetics Lab uses DNA as a tool to help better understand marine mammal species and populations to aid in conservation and management efforts.

Killer Whale Biology and Ecology

For over 30 years, we have conducted intensive field research to better understand killer whales in the Pacific Northwest. This research has mainly focused on population monitoring, conservation planning and, most recently, monitoring heath and body condition through drone-based photogrammetry.

Beluga Whale Biology and Acoustic Ecology

Our research in the Arctic investigates how underwater noise compromises beluga communication given that this species, like other cetacean species, rely on sound for foraging, navigating and communicating.

Biology and Ecology of Other Marine Mammal Species

While most of our research projects focus on killer whales and beluga whales, some members of our team monitor the health and body condition of humpback whales through drone-based photogrammetry and blow sampling, and assist with pinniped research conducted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Conservation Research Applications

In addition to our lab and field reseach, many of our members aid in scientific advisory panels and working groups to ensure that the best standards and regulations are set to protect marine mammal populations in Canada - many of which are threatened or endangered. 

Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program

Raises funds through symbolic adoptions of B.C.’s killer whales to support our conservation-oriented research on killer whales and other marine mammals.