How it Works

By analyzing whale feces, we can answer important questions about a killer whale’s health.

These findings play a critical role in providing better protections, informing policy, triggering urgent actions, and better understanding all of the factors affecting the survival and recovery of endangered Southern Resident killer whales.



Measuring reproductive hormone levels, we can detect a pregnancy as early as two months from the time of conception. By alerting agencies about pregnant killer whales, dynamic protections can be put in place to ensure pregnant females are not disturbed, for the best chance of a successful birth.



Measuring the levels of unique stress hormones, we can differentiate between nutritional stress and environmental stress. Placed in the hands of policymakers, these results can be used to inform fisheries decisions and provide feedback regarding the effectiveness of disturbance mitigation efforts.



During periods of nutritional stress, toxicants accumulated in blubber are released and effectively poison killer whales and their calves from the inside out. By understanding the relationships between nutrition, contaminants, and reproductive success, better policies can be developed to recover killer whales.



By analyzing prey DNA in whale feces, fish scales, and tissue, we can identify a killer whale's preferred menu items. Genetic analysis also provides the ability to pinpoint the home rivers of these salmon and can be used by fisheries managers to prioritize recovery of key salmon populations.