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. The
young researcher observed complex ritual-like behaviours at day break where the
whales focused great attention on where the sun first touched the water of their
tank. At first it seemed possible to learn something of whale language from these
two whales, but as they conceived and lost baby after baby - from stillbirth and
starvation, Morton began to suspect captivity had fundamentally altered the whales.
There was no way to know if they had lost other natural abilities, such as language.
She worried she was studying language in whales driven insane. 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, because each family of B.C. whales uses a unique dialect.
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. When 10,000 pages of letters to all levels of government
failed to elicit meaningful response, Morton realized she would have to scientifically
prove that salmon farming had driven out the whales and caused epidemic outbreaks
of bacteria, viral and parasitic infections in wild salmon. 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 survives the current decade.
Born in Connecticut, U.S.A.
at the Human/Dolphin Society with Dr. J.C. Lilly. Cataloged 2,000 audio recordings
of dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)
Graduated Magna cum Laude from the American University in Washington D.C. with
Bachelor of Science
Worked for Dr. Sam Ridgeway at Navel Oceans Systems Center on correlation of sound
production of dolphins to physiological states.
Designed and conducted study to examine correlation between call types and behaviour,
in captive killer whale pair. Published results (Morton, A.B. 1986)
Lead three weeks of field work in Johnstone Strait, B.C. to continue sound/behaviour
correlation work with free-ranging whales.
Move to British Columbia and conduct two month field season on killer whale acoustics
Marry fimmaker Robin Morton, form non-profit charitable society (Lore Quest) renamed
Initiate longterm field study in the Broughton Archipelago. Commence daily records
on cetacean activity, begin 24h/d underwater acoustic monitoring continuing to
present to aid in detection of marine mammals.
Expanded killer whale work to include influx of thousands of Pacific white-sided
Observe arrival of first salmon aquaculture farm
Become Canadian Citizen, as well as American citizen
Co-found Broughton Archipelago Stewardship Alliance with Eric Nelson and Kate
Pinnsonault to hire and educate local people to assess, monitor, recommend restoration
and restore small salmon-bearing creeks in the Broughton Archipelago.
A. B., J.C. Gale and R.C. Prince. 1986. Sound
and behavioral correlation in captive Orcinus orca. In: Kirkevold,
B.C. and Lockhard, J.S. (eds.) Behavioral biology of killer whales. Alan
R. Liss, Inc. New York. Pp. 303-333.
A.B. 1990. A quantitative comparison of the behaviour of resident and transient
forms of the killer whale off the central British Columbia coast. Report of
the International Whaling Commission. (special issue 12): 245-248.
J.K.B., G. Ellis, L. Barret-Lennard, A.B. Morton, R. Palm and K.C. Balcomb.
1998. Diet specialization in two sympatric populations
of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in coastal British Columbia and adjacent
waters. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 76(8):1456-1471.
J.K.B., G.M. Ellis, D.R. Matkin, K.C. Balcomb, D. Briggs, and A.B. Morton.
2005. Killer whale attacks
on minke whales: Prey capture and antipredator tactics. Marine Mammal Science
M., A. Morton, and J.P. Volpe. 2005. Nonlethal
assessment of juvenile pink and chum salmon for parasitic sea lice infections
and fish health. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 134(3):711-716.
A.B. 2000. Occurrence, photo-identification
and prey of Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhyncus obliquidens) in
the Broughton Archipelago, Canada 1985-1997. Marine Mammal Science.
A.B. and H.K. Symonds. 2002. Displacement of
Orcinus orca by high amplitude sound in British Columbia, Canada. ICES
Journal of Marine Science. 59:71-80.
A.B. and J. Volpe. 2002. A Description of
Escaped Farmed Atlantic Salmon Salmo salar Captures and Their Characteristics
in One Pacific Salmon Fishery Area in British Columbia, Canada, in 2000. Alaska
Fisheries Research Bulletin Vol. 9(2): 102-110.
A., R. Routledge, C. Peet, and A. Ladwig. 2004. Sea
lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) infection rates on juvenile pink (Oncorhynchus
gorbuscha) and chum (Oncorhynchus keta) salmon in the nearshore marine environment
of British Columbia, Canada. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
A.B., and Routledge, R. 2005. Mortality
rates for juvenile pink Oncorhynchus gorbuscha and chum O. keta
salmon infested with sea lice Lepeophtheirus salmonis in the Broughton
Archipelago. Alaska Fishery Research Bulletin 11(2):146-152.
A., R.D. Routledge, and R. Williams. 2005. Temporal
patterns of sea louse infestation on wild pacific salmon in relation to the fallowing
of Atlantic salmon farms. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 25(3):811-821.
A., and R.D. Routledge. 2006. Fulton's
Condition Factor: Is it a valid measure of sea lice impact on juvenile salmon?
North American Journal of Fisheries Management 26:56-62.
M., M.A. Lewis, A. Morton, L.N. Frazer, and J.P. Volpe. 2006. Epizootics
of wild fish induced by farm fish. Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences. PNAS published October 4, 2006, 10.1073/pnas.0603525103
Krkoek, M., J.S. Ford, A. Morton, S. Lele, R.A. Myers, and M.A. Lewis. 2007. Declining Wild Salmon Populations in Relation to Parasites from Farm Salmon. Science 14 December 2007:
Vol. 318. no. 5857, pp. 1772 - 1775.
Morton, A., R. Routledge, and M. Krkosek. 2008. Sea louse infestation in wild juvenile salmon and Pacific herring associated with fish farms off the east-central coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. North American Journal of Fisheries Management. Published online March 31, 2008.
A.B. 1994/5. The impact of fish farms on Marine Mammals. B.C. Marine Mammal
Journal vol. 2.
papers in progress
John P. and Morton, A. B. Significant underestimation of feral Atlantic
salmon in coastal British Columbia. Under review.
A., A.B. Morton and K. Dodd. Pacific capelin (Mallotus villosus):
Indicators of ecosystem change? Under review.
A.B. and J.P. Volpe. Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in Pacific salmon
fishery in British Columbia, Canada.
A.B. 1985. Humpback Retunion. International Wildlife Sept/Oct.
A.B. 1987. Into the World of Orcas. International Wildlife.
A.B. 1987. The Return of the Humpback. Beautiful B.C.
A.B. 1990. The Play's the Thing. Nature Canada.
A.B. 1990. Life Afloat on the B.C. Coast. Canadian Geographic.
A.B. 1994. These Whales Have Gotten to Know Me, Smithsonian Magazine Nov.
Morton, A.B. 1996. "Dances with Dolphins", Equinox. June.
Morton, A.B. 1996. Salmon Farming's Hidden Harm. Earth Island Insitute.
Morton, A.B. 1996. Fish Farming - Growing too Fast? BBC Wildlife. October.
A.B. 1997 - present. From the Archipelago. WaveLength Magazine regular column.
A.B. 1997. Where the wild dolphins play. California Wild.
A.B. 1998. Strangers on the shore. B.B.C. Wildlife. July.
A.B. 1991. Siwiti - A Whale's Story.
Orca Books, Victoria.
A.B. 1993. In the Company of Whales,
from the Diary of a Whale Watcher. Orca Books Victoria.
A.B. 1998. Life Among the Whales. In: Intimate Nature. Chapter. Ballantine
Books New York.
A.B. and B. Proctor. 1998. Heart of the
Raincoast. Horsdal and Schubart, Victoria.
A.B. 2002. Listening to Whales.
Random House, New York.
A.B. 2004. Beyond the Whales: The Photographs
and Passions of Alexandra Morton. Heritage House Publishing, Victoria.
S., A. Morton, B. Keller, R.M. Leslie, O. Langer, D. Staniford. A. 2004.
A Stain Upon the Sea: West Coast Salmon Farming.
Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park, BC.
Longterm monitoring of archipelago ecosystem with daily data collection on marine
mammal presence and area usage and local rainfall.
- present Record killer whale acoustics with concurrent voice track
describing whale identification, behaviour and circumstances to create database
large enough to find relationships between calls and other parameters. Photo-identification
done on the whales and sent to Department of Fisneries and Oceans database on
killer populations in British Columbia.
Initiated photo-identification of Pacific White-sided dolphins to examine social
structure and site fidelity. Currently have records on 940 individual dolphins.
Make recordings of these dolphins to conduct analysis similar to killer whale
work. Finding an extraordinary repertoire.
to fishermen's reports of unusual numbers of Atlantic salmon in commercial catch
by interviewing every commercial fisherman in range at every fishing opening to
count 10,240 Atlantic salmon and examine stomach contents in 800 of these fish.
(Paper with Volpe under review.)
- Responded to commercial shrimp fishermen's report of unprecedented occurrence
of an eye afixing copepod on sole by-catch. Collecting samples and shipping to
interested expert in Mississippi for co-publication on this anomaly near salmon
- Responded to unprecedented appearance of lethal sea louse levels on juvenile
pink salmon by finding an expert scientist partner, to study epidemic. (Publication
present - Initiate work on bacterial colonies beneath salmon aquaculture
pens to create project with interested microbiologists. (Funding applications
WORK - VOLUNTEER
- present Volunteer as director and/or field assistant to the Scott
Cove salmon enhancement facility.
Pesticide Appeal No. 98-PES-01 to limit spraying 127 kg of Vision
over 59.6 ha and 10.8 kg of Release over 4.5 ha in watershed of fish bearing
habitat Elbow Creek, tributary of the Kakweikan River. Raised funds for Sierra
Legal Defence Lawyer and hydrologist. Found unmarked water courses. Decision reduced
Vision and Interfor volunteered to not use Release.
Pesticide Appeal No. 98-PES-10 to disallow aerial spraying of glyphosate
by the Ministry of Forests into the watersheds of Call Inlet and Port Neville.
Raised funds for lawyer and hydrologist. An agreement was reached outside the
appeal between all parties not to use aerial application of glyphosate in any
of the proposed areas and ground foliar spraying only on areas not in salmon-bearing
Pesticide Appeal No. 99-PES- 09 (a) to limit spraying of Vision into watershed
of the Kingcome River. Raised funds for hydrologist and lawyer. Lost this appeal,
but further interaction with Tsawataineuk partners in this appeal encouraged Interfor
to use manual brushing.
Pesticide Appeal No. 2001PES-002 to limit spraying of 657 kg of Vision
and 2.4 kg of Release in the salmon bearing watershed the Kliniklini at
the head of Knight Inlet. Interfor withdrew application.
Pesticide Appeal No. to limit application of Vision to the watershed of
the Wakeman River. Appeal not complete.
- 1999 Representative and alternative representative for Broughton
Archipelago, Malcolm Island and part of Cormorant Island (Area A) on Mount Waddington
Community Resource Board.
BROADCASTING CORP., "Footloose in B.C."
Spring ABC TV, "Beautiful Killers", One hour special on killer whales.
Includes footage of me in the field and several interview clips. Producer Nick
OMNI PRODUCTIONS, "Killer Whales in the Wild" purchased by National
Geographic Explorers Program.
KEG PRODUCTIONS, "The Day the Whales Returned" and DISCOVERY CHANNEL
"Profiles of Nature, series IV," 24 min.
French Production, "Animalia, #238."
JOURNEYS WITH LAUREN MILLAR, "Alexandra Morton: dolphin dynamics Part 1, Part
2 BPN 591508 Discovery Channel January1996
U.NEWS "Whales in the Mist" and "Fish Farms - Whales" with Julia Foy.
WILD THINGS Episode #010 (213) 860-8081.
OMNI FILMS, Vancouver, "The Living Coast."
BBC/CBC joint production, "The Price of Salmon."
January 7 CBS SUNDAY MORNING, "Animal Intelligence."
July 4 BBC, "Rolf's Amazing World of Animals - Orcas."
Nov 14 CBC MARKET PLACE, "Wild and Farmed Salmon"
FRENCH PUBLIC TV THALASSA, "Killer Whales and dolphins" - not aired
CBC, "Across Country Canada" - not yet aired
"Whale Correspondent" for CBC Radio, "Basic Black show"
The Vancouver Aquarium Murray A. Newman Award for Significant Achievement
in Aquatic Conservation