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.


Current Research

Current Research Projects

B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network

North Coast Cetacean Research Initiative

  • Harbour porpoise habitat use
  • Winter habitat use of humpback whales
  • Local humback whale identification catalogue

Conservation Genetics

  • Genetic variation of marine mammal populations
  • Genetic identification of stranded cetaceans and killer whale prey items
  • Killer whale mating systems

Killer Whale Biology and Ecology

  • Population monitoring
  • Health and body condition in relation to food supply
  • Conservation planning

Beluga Whale Biology and Acoustic Ecology

  • Impacts of underwater noise on communication and behaviour of belugas in the Churchill River Estuary in Manitoba

  • Impacts of underwater noise on mother-calf contact of belugas in the St. Lawrence River in Quebec

Biology and Ecology of Other Marine Mammal Species

  • Health and body condition of humpback whales
  • Pinniped abundance and diet

Conservation Research Applications

Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program

Raises funds to support conservation-oriented research of killer whales and other marine mammals conducted by the Marine Mammal Research Program. Some of the projects, activities and programs supported are listed below. 


Research on Wild Killer Whales

Research Support

Long-term monitoring of killer whale populations in B.C.:
The longest continuous study of killer whales, a joint project with many other institutions, began in 1973. Photo-identification is at the core of the project and makes it possible to establish trends in productivity and survivorship in the face of increasing human-induced environmental changes.

Genetic Analysis:
Small tissue samples collected for DNA analysis are used to trace relationships and determine population structure and mating patterns of killer whales. Click here for more information. 

Using drone-based photogrammetry to monitor the health and body condition of killer whales:
A joint project with scientists from NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Southwest Fisheries Science Centre and SR3 (Sealife Response, Rehabilitation and Research) to use drone-based photogrammetry to assess changes in body condition and nutritional status of resident killer whales in relation to fluctuations in prey abundance. 

Graduate Students:
The Adoption Program supports a wide variety of graduate student research projects. In 2005 we expanded our mandate to include research on animals that killer whales prey on or interact with. 

The Michael A. Bigg Award, instituted in 2007, celebrates the life and scientific achievements of pioneering killer whale researcher Dr. Michael Bigg (1939-1990). The Michael A. Bigg Award is given annually to a graduate student who's thesis or dissertation research focuses on cetaceans, or on the identification or conservation of cetacean habitat. 

The Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program helps send researchers to conferences and workshops to exchange scientific and conservation information with colleagues. 

Visiting Scientist Program:
Established marine mammal scientists on leave from their home institutions are hosted at the Vancouver Aquarium to conduct their studies and collaborate with local researchers.