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Alexandra Morton, Raincoast Research Society (NGO)

Alexandra Morton
Raincoast Research Society (NGO)

Alexandra (Hubbard) Morton was born in 1957. Her childhood dream to study animals led her to Los Angeles to record and analyze the communication between two killer whales (orca) in an oceanarium there. After hundreds of hours tankside, Morton learned the whales dialect and began to associate some calls with specific whale activities.

Contacting pioneering orca researchers in British Columbia - the captive whales' homewater, Morton was able to locate their family to the waters of Johnstone Strait off northeastern Vancouver Island. Finding these specific whales was essential to the integrity of Morton's study.

In 1979, Morton went to Johnstone Strait on her own funds, fell in love with the coast and moved there in 1980. Combining talents with a dashing young film maker, Robin Morton, the couple moved aboard a boat and searched the coast for the perfect place to study whales and raise a family. In October of 1984, the matriarch orca, Scimitar, led the Mortons, deep into mainland waterways to discover a tiny floating community called Echo Bay. This has been Morton's home ever since. For the first few years Morton's research flourished in the wilderness of the inlets, and she published on the elusive mammal-eating orca - transients. In the 1990s a burgeoning salmon farming industry appeared to trigger fundamental ecological transition from pristine to industrial. By partnering with international scientists and in some cases commercial fishermen Morton has documented the loss of the whales, thousands of escaped farm salmon, lethal outbreaks of sea lice, and antibiotic resistance near salmon farms. Her research on whales continues, but she realizes her situation is consistent with most who have chosen a life studying wild animals. At some point you must move from pure research to making sure your research subject survive the current decade.