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Majestic fin whales

Icelandic whalers kill first fin whales in four years

As feared, whale hunters in Iceland have killed at least two fin whales, the first...
hvalur-8-whaling-vessel

Majority of Icelandic people think whaling harms their country’s reputation

A survey of Icelandic people has confirmed that the majority believe whaling damages Iceland's reputation. ...
A magnificent sei whale © Christopher Swann

Japan Begins Commercial Whaling Season

Sei whale © Christopher Swann Japanese whalers have left port to begin this year's annual...

Pumps and conveyor belts. How could more whales help save us?

University of Alaska Fairbanks Master's student, Dana Bloch, retrieves a CTD that is used to...

We <3 Whale Poop: WDC providing support for Orca Scat Project

San Juan Island, Washington. July 22, 2019:

Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) is thrilled to share the news that we are a contributing supporter in 2019 for the Southern Resident Orca Scat Project, a research effort within the University of Washington’s Conservation Canines program.  WDC’s contribution to the program will help support the management and implementation of the summer field season as the Orca Team collects and analyzes scat from the endangered Southern Resident orca community.

Conservation Canine Eba
CK9 Eba is in her first year on the Southern Resident Orca Scat Project

Conservation Canines is part of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington and has been collecting orca scat from Southern Resident orcas since 2008.  This non-invasive research method provides vital information on the threats facing Southern Resident orcas – prey depletion, stress from disturbance and noise, and contaminant levels in orcas.  Information collected and published by the Center for Conservation Biology helps policy managers refine regulations and create better protective measures for Southern Resident orcas.

This unique program relies on rescue dogs with “an insatiable urge to play,” which often means they are too high-energy to be family pets, but makes them ideal working dogs.  It requires an exceptional pup and handler to work as a team on a boat, with a very unique set of circumstances!  The finely-honed technique and communication between dog, handler, boat driver, and sample collectors are vital to working on the water to detect and collect orca scat.

We at WDC make no secret of the fact that we love whale poop – not just because it can help the health of our ocean ecosystem, but also for the vital information it can provide.  Orca scat contains information for both whole populations and for individual orcas – genetic identification, pregnancies, stress, nutritional status, contaminant loads, and parasites.  Eventually the fecal samples will also be analyzed for the presence of microplastics.

WDC on a research boat
WDC's Jessica Rekos Fellow, Colleen Weiler, on the boat with the CK9 team

The Southern Resident Orca Scat Project has provided critical information on when and where the orcas are experiencing nutritional stress, levels of toxic contaminants like DDT and PCBs, and pregnancy occurrence and failure in individual orcas.  The Project contributes to the Southern Resident orca health database, and was part of the effort in the summer of 2018 to diagnose and treat Scarlet (J50).

WDC is proud to support this important research and on-the-ground data collection.

“We rely on the best available scientific information to advocate for the orcas here at WDC, and I am so thrilled that we are able to provide support for this incredible project,” says Colleen Weiler, WDC’s Jessica Rekos Fellow.  “I have been a huge fan of this research program since I learned about their work, and it combines some of my favorite things – dogs, orcas, and science.”

Dr. Deborah Giles, lead researcher for the Orca Scat Project, said “thanks to a generous grant from Whale and Dolphin Conservation, the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology’s Conservation Canines has been able to spend time on the water to train our new scat detection dog, and refresh and hone our skills as a team.  We were ready to respond to the orcas when they came back to the Salish Sea.”

Support for WDC’s Southern Resident Orca project is provided by the generosity of our donors, The Jessica Rekos Foundation, and a grant from Metabolic Studio.  Thank you!!

Provide visual of research effort and team
The 2019 Conservation Canine Orca Scat Project team (not shown: Eba, CK9 pup)

A New Calf Provides Hope for Endangered Southern Resident Orcas

By Colleen Weiler | 03/03/2022 |

Sara Hysong Shimazu (Hysazu Photography) GOOD NEWS – A new baby orca! On March 1st, observers with Washington State-based Center for Whale Research and Orca Behavior Institute were watching members of J pod of the Southern Resident orca community off San Juan Island and spotted a tiny dorsal fin amongst the more familiar orcas.  The…

Orca Month 2021 – We are Family

By Colleen Weiler | 07/20/2021 |

We have come to the end of another amazing Orca Action Month, and for the second year in a row we took the celebration online, with (mostly) virtual events bringing together orca researchers, fans, and supporters from around the world. Orca Month began as Orca Awareness Month, created by our friends at Orca Network more…

Home of Southern Resident Orcas Named a Mission Blue Hope Spot

By Colleen Weiler | 03/29/2021 |

WDC is proud to be among the groups supporting the declaration of the Salish Sea, a body of water between Washington State and British Columbia and the home waters of the Southern Resident orcas, as a Mission Blue Hope Spot. Our friends at SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation, and Research (SR3) in Seattle nominated the Salish Sea,…

Southern Resident Orcas: Dam Good News for Restoring the Snake River

By Colleen Weiler | 02/08/2021 |

Hysazu Photography Hysazu Photography  “We are thrilled to see a concrete plan come together for the bold, inclusive changes needed to move us away from the status quo,” said Colleen Weiler, WDC’s Jessica Rekos Fellow for Orca Conservation.  “This is an opportunity to make big changes that support salmon and Southern Resident orca recovery, while…

Big win for orcas – the Klamath River dams are coming down

By Colleen Weiler | 11/19/2020 |

This is a vital step to restoring abundant salmon in the river and boosting the food available for endangered Southern Resident orcas.  On November 17th, a new agreement for the Klamath River dams was announced by the Governors of Oregon and California, together with the Yurok and Karuk Tribes, the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, and…