By: Amy Rowley

We are excited to share that the research of Ocean Wise’s Marine Mammal Conservation Research Program has been featured in a recent episode of CBC’s The Nature of Things. ‘Listening to Orcas’, streaming now on CBC Gem, showcases the work of Program Director, Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, and researchers Brittany Visona and Dylan Smyth. The team are working to protect and understand British Columbia’s iconic killer whales.

The episode shows the team hard at work aboard our research vessel, Skana, using drone technology to capture high-resolution aerial images of killer whales. Body measurements taken from these images are being used to analyze killer whale body condition – an indicator of a whale’s health – or to determine whether a female is pregnant. This non-invasive method allows us to monitor the wellbeing of individual killer whales and the population as a whole from a distance, with minimal disturbance to their lives.

The project currently focuses on northern resident killer whales, one of the four distinct populations that inhabit in BC waters. Resident killer whales feed almost exclusively on Chinook salmon, which vary in abundance and distribution over time. By examining how salmon availability correlates with killer whale body shape and size, we can assess the impact of prey shortages and inform management plans.

Check out the episode here to learn more about the project and see our researchers in action!