After learning that J pod was heading west in Boundary Pass, our team met at Snug and headed south to find the whales – locating the first whales about 30 minutes later offshore of Pile Point on San Juan Island.

While the whales were still overall spread out, we were able to survey behind a group of 5 animals as they alternated between foraging and slow traveling northwest “back up island” compared to the rest of the whales who were documented by the Soundwatch Crews and relayed messages from friends on the shore near South Beach.

After about an hour of surveying downwind of a few different small groups of whales, Eba had a strong change in behavior which Jim relayed to Giles, who was driving the boat. Working together, the team was able to pinpoint the fecal sample, which was collected out of the water, decanted into 50mL tubes, and “spun down” using our onboard centrifuge! The collected sample is big enough for our lab to run all the hormone analyses, which will help us understand the health of the whales by looking at stress, nutrition, and pregnancy hormones.
After processing the samples, the team returned to surveying for more floating feces, but with the whales spreading out more and the current shifting to a strong flood, we decided to head back to our home port for the day.

Research Vessel

R/V Cheena


Southern Resident Killer Whales


J Pod

Research Activities

Fecal Collection, Behavior Data