Why study Killer Whales, or Orca?
Not only do these whales have the second largest brain on the planet (after the Sperm Whale), the surface of their brains has more intense folding than ours, which means they have a higher percentage of grey matter than we do.
The Southern Resident killer whale population are listed as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act, due to their low numbers. Additionally, the genetically distinct AT1 transients are listed as 'Depleted' under the ESA, they have not had a calf since the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.
Killer whales are at the top of the food chain, and are excellent indicators of the health of an ecosystem. When we see trends in the health and population of our killer whales, we are better able to investigate the issues we are facing in our oceans.