The Icelandic Orca Project started in 2008 and is the first dedicated program to have followed individuals over years, becoming the longest running orca research project in Icelandic waters.
We aim to understand the diverse aspects of orca lives; how many there are, where they go, what they eat, who they associate with, how they keep in touch and what threats they may face.
Using a multidisciplinary approach we now know they form a society that is more fluid than previously thought, where whales with different movement patterns and feeding preferences are not socially segregated. We have also discovered that they produce unique sounds that have not been documented elsewhere.
Clearly this is a unique population and our ongoing research focusses on understanding the status of the population, as well as discovering and preventing any stressors to which it may be exposed.
Filipa started the project in 2008, mainly focusing on the orcas’ acoustic behaviour for her PhD at the University of St Andrews (UK).
Her research focuses on resource specialisation and links to social and communication behaviours. She is currently a Research Specialist at the University of Iceland, based on our main field site of Vestmannaeyjar, and co-supervises all the students working on the project.
Paul joined the project in 2013 and oversees much of our work on bioacoustics, the use of animal-borne tags and land-based observations.
Paul is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Iceland and a co-principal investigator on the citizen-science project funded by the Earthwatch Institute since 2018. His research involves human impacts on marine mammals, especially underwater noise.
Learn about his project on northern bottlenose whales in the Northeast Atlantic here: Hypmo Project
Anna completed her Masters of Biology at the University of Iceland in 2019 investigating the call repertoire of Icelandic killer whales and comparing it to the repertoire of Norwegian killer whales.
She is currently conducting a PhD on the interspecific interactions between pilot whales and killer whales.
Ayça has been coordinating the summer fieldwork since 2018 and is currently conducting a PhD on the foraging ecology and habitat use of killer whales.
Tatiana is currently conducting a PhD on the social and behavioural context of the acoustic communication of killer whales in Iceland.
Gary has extensive experience of marine mammal fieldwork, having worked in California, Scotland, the Philippines and now Iceland.
He has been participating in the summer fieldwork since 2016, primarily acting as the skipper, whilst also assisting on other aspects of the work.
Luke has been working in the field since graduating from University College London in 2012, including expeditions in the Philippines, Thailand and Scotland.
Luke has been participating in the summer fieldwork since 2018 and is behind our current website design.
Professor at the University of St Andrews (UK). He has been studying killer whales since 1988, switching his focus of studies from North Pacific killer whales to the North Atlantic in 2005. His research has focused on cetacean behaviour and physiology using suction-cup tags, acoustic methods and visual observations to describe and understand social, foraging and resting behaviours. Patrick has supervised many of the students working on the project.
Head of Whale Research at the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute (Iceland). He has been involved in research on Icelandic killer whales since the 1980s when it first started, and now coordinates the photo-ID database being developed at the Marine Research Institute.
Senior Lecturer at the University of Cumbria (UK). He has been studying the acoustic behaviour of orcas both in the Pacific and the Atlantic and has been our collaborator in the field efforts of 2009/10 and 2014-16 in Vestmannaeyjar.
Research Fellow at the Faculty of Biology, Moscow State University (Russia). She has been studying the cultural evolution of orca dialects and participated in the winter fieldwork (2013-2015) as an acoustician and has been our collaborator on analysis of Icelandic orca acoustic recordings.
Research Fellow at Bangor University (UK). Andy has played a crucial role in the studies of Northeast Atlantic killer whales since 2007 and has been a long-term collaborator of the project, particularly on our work understanding movements between Iceland and Scotland as well as on killer whale genetics.
Researcher in the Acoustics Group at CEREMA (France). Charlotte has extensive experience with animal playbacks and cetacean playbacks in particular, that she has developed to study acoustic communication systems. Part of her expertise comes from conducting fieldworks on several cetacean species including killer whale and pilot whales in Norwegian and Icelandic waters. She is currently collaborating with us on studying the role of acoustics in the interspecific interactions between pilot whales and killer whales.
We would like to particularly thank Sara Tavares, for her dedication to many aspects of the project during her PhD studies between 2013 and 2017, Miguel Neves, for assisting in the winters of 2013-5, the summers of 2014-17 and helping with public outreach activities during those years, Ivan Fedutin, who participated in the field efforts of the winters of 2013-2015 and Julie Béesau for assisting in the field in the winters of 2013/4 and summer 2016. We are also deeply grateful to Leonard Boekee from Orcazine for designing our project's logo.
Since the summer of 2017 we have been running a citizen science program with the Earthwatch Institute and we would like to thank all the citizen scientists who have been a part of this programme for their help and enthusiasm in the field!
We would also like to thank the many other colleagues, students and fieldwork participants who have contributed to this project throughout the years, including (in alphabetical order): Alexandra Fennell, Allan Ligon, Anne Piémont, Anne Valerie Duc, Annemieke Podt, Annika Firmenich, Astrid van Ginneken, Craig Matkin, Dalia Barragán Barrera, Dan Olsen, David Gaspard, Deborah Vicari, Gaëtan Richard, Graeme Ellis, Hajime Yoshino, Hannah Williams, Hannah Wood, Jacopo Bridda, Jane Watson, Jennifer Stollery, Jón Pállson, José Cervantes-Henriksen, Kagari Aoki, Katarina Klementisová, Katherine Gavrilchuk, Katja Vinding, Katsufumi Sato, Leticiaà Legat, Luke O’Connor, Marianne Rasmussen, Marie Louis, Marjoleine Roos, Matthew Bivins, Melanie Chocholek, Mogens Trolle, Ralph Baylor, Rebecca Bakker, Rebecca Hooper, Rebecca Lyal, René Swift, Ricardo Antunes, Richard Bates, Sara De Clerck, Sébastien Houillier, Simon Moss, Timothy Carden, Tom Bean, and Yukihisa Kogure.
And last but not least, thanks to all our colleagues who every year work hard to keep this project going and to get to know more about Icelandic orcas!