Wild Orca is powered by a team of volunteers, researchers, kayaktivists, and wild advocates.

Michael grew up on Bainbridge Island in Washington State. His career as a seaplane pilot gave life to his passion for the wild Pacific Northwest and it’s endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

In addition to co-founding Wild Orca in 2014, Michael is also the President of Cultural Passage, a program that places volunteers in sustainable development projects in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas.

Anna grew up in Reno, Nevada where she was raised with love and respect for the world around her. Regular childhood visits to the Canadian Gulf Islands shaped her deep affection for flying and the Pacific Northwest. She followed her passion for flying and earned her Bachelors degree in Aviation at Utah State University. In 2008 Anna made Seattle her home when she was hired as a commercial seaplane pilot for Kenmore Air. In addition to carrying passengers and freight over the coastal waters of Washington and British Columbia, Anna worked as a ski patroller at Crystal Mountain with her husband Eric, and her avalanche rescue dog, Luna.

Anna joined with her colleague, Michael Hays, co-founding Wild Orca in 2014. In addition to her work in Killer Whale conservation and policy, she volunteers her time caring for animals who have been rescued from abusive and unhealthy farms across the United States.

Dr. Deborah Giles (she goes by her last name) received her PhD from the University of California Davis in 2014. Her master’s thesis and PhD dissertation both focused on the federally listed southern resident killer whales. Formerly the research director at the Center for Whale Research, she is currently a resident scientist and lecturer at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs, where she teaches Marine Mammals of the Salish Sea and Marine Biology. Since 2009 Giles has been the vessel captain for Dr. Samuel Wasser’s project – University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology – utilizing a scat detection dog to locate floating killer whale scat to monitor the physiological health of southern resident killer whales.

Starting in 2010, Giles also began work with an ongoing collaborative project with Cascadia Research Collective and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service deploying acoustic suction-cup recording tags on killer whales to measure received noise levels by whales. Giles is the killer whale scientific adviser for the Orca Salmon Alliance, a program advisor for Killer Whale Tales, and is on the Steering Committee for the Salish Sea Ecosystem Advocates (SalishSEA).

Ali has 20 years of experience in marine conservation, including 2 years as Executive Director of the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea. Ali joined Wild Orca in 2019 with the goal of reaching a wide audience of wild advocates through effective interpretation and communication, using inspirational stories and content to promote action for change.

When Susan was ten years old her biologist grandparents took her on a research trip to the tropical islands of the West Indies where she fell in love with the sea and all its creatures.

She grew up, went to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, became a successful professional photographer and took thousands of painstakingly art-directed photos of food for magazines, restaurants, cookbooks, and clients such as the New York and Los Angeles Times food sections, Julia Childs with Microsoft, Alaska Airlines, Starbucks and Holland America. In addition, she studied communications and did course work in graphic design at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle.

Susan now lives on an island near Seattle with her writer husband Ken, two Australian shepherds, and a crazy loveable little mutt that thinks she’s the boss of the other two dogs. Susan and Ken have a deep love of the outdoors and spend a lot of time exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest by foot and kayak. Over the last ten years, Susan has taken several marine naturalist courses from the Whale Museum and the Center for Whale Research, both on San Juan Island. She now takes photos of orcas and volunteers her time and talents working with several environmental organizations. She enjoys helping with public events and talking to school kids about the plight of salmon and Southern Resident Orcas.

Riley grew up in Northville, Michigan with a great respect for the Great Lakes ecosystems.  She attended Grand Valley State University, receiving dual Bachelor of Science Degrees in Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Studies with application in Health and Ecology.  Her background in the nonprofit sector also includes microbiology work at NSF International dedicated to testing and process evaluation. Additionally, she served as Director of Fundraising at the Creature Conservancy until 2019; an organization of over 200 rescued non-releasable exotic animals serving as species ambassadors.

Riley joined Wild Orca in 2019 perusing a deeper understanding of wild whale behavior and health.  She is a strong proponent of expanding community knowledge and bringing power to endangered killer whales through active community outreach and information.

Zoey has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine where she focused on science writing, bird migration, and oceanography. While raised in the Pacific Northwest, she has lived aboard tall ships on the East coast as a marine ecology teacher, led ecology lessons for students in the Appalachian forest, and has a strong background in raptors from her experiences training vultures and translating raptor research for the public in Pennsylvania.

Zoey strives to facilitate deeper appreciation of the natural world through writing and outreach, with a particular interest in sharing the remarkable life histories of whales and birds.


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