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Huge success for WDC campaign as Virgin Holidays ends SeaWorld trips

Huge success for WDC campaign as Virgin Holidays ends SeaWorld trips

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North Atlantic right whale

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Whalecome home!  After record absence, Southern Resident orcas return to summer habitat

Whalecome home! After record absence, Southern Resident orcas return to summer habitat

It was a “whale of a weekend” for the Southern Residents and those who know...
CCB 2015 mom zoomed

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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)

Southern Resident Orca Scat Project: update from the field

By Colleen Weiler | 08/13/2019

Dr. Giles, a scientist with the Orca Scat Project, and CK9 Eba on the scent during a training run Dr. Giles, researcher with the Orca Scat Project, part of the Conservation Canines program with the University of Washington’s Center for Biological Diversity, gives us an update from the field and a recap of what the…

Three Southern Resident orcas declared dead

By Colleen Weiler | 08/07/2019

The devastating news came late on Tuesday night – three more Southern Resident orcas lost, one from each pod in the highly endangered and dwindling population.  Like many others who work on recovery for the Southern Resident orcas and their home, I have spent my summer nervously dreading this announcement, but steeling myself for the…

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

By Colleen Weiler | 07/26/2019

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…

Whalecome home! After record absence, Southern Resident orcas return to summer habitat

By Colleen Weiler | 07/09/2019

It was a “whale of a weekend” for the Southern Residents and those who know and love this unique community of endangered orcas.  After being conspicuously absent from their traditional summer habitat in the inland waters of the Salish Sea – a transboundary body of water between Washington state in the US and British Columbia…

Canada approves pipeline despite concerns for Southern Resident orcas

By Colleen Weiler | 06/25/2019

In extremely disappointing but not unexpected news from Canada last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion – a project long opposed by First Nations, coastal communities, and environmental groups in both Canada and the U.S., in addition to the British Columbia provincial government and the state of Washington.…