Since the 1970s, I have worked in collaboration with a variety of students and colleagues in a long-term study of the identification, social organization, and life history of killer whales. Much of my research and that of my students has involved the function of underwater acoustic signals in social communication of killer whales, the identification and description of group-specific vocal dialects, and interpretations of these dialects to yield insights into the historical social evolution of the populations. More recently, my studies have focused on the foraging specializations of fish-eating ‘resident’ killer whales, which prey selectively on Chinook salmon. Despite the high trophic level of this predator, resident killer whales may be dependent on Chinook salmon and abundance of this prey species may have a direct effect on their survival.
During 2001–2017, I headed up the Cetacean Research Program at the Pacific Biological Station, Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Together with my colleagues there, we have conducted a wide range of studies to assess the conservation status of marine mammals and turtles off the Pacific coast that are listed under Canada’s Species-at-Risk Act. These species include the North Pacific right whale, blue whale, sei whale, fin whale, humpback whale, sea otter and leatherback turtle. I retired from this position in 2017 and am currently Scientist Emeritus with the CRP.
Note to prospective graduate students: As I have retired from DFO Science, I am currently unable to accept new graduate students at this time.