Project #25043

Protecting Iceland's Killer Whales

by Earthwatch Institute


Scientists have very little information about the population or feeding patterns of killer whales in Iceland. As top predators, they can change the populations of prey species, which in turn affects the rest of the food chain. Conversely, dependence on a particular prey species, whose populations may fluctuate over time, can impact the killer whales' survival. By collecting observational data and skin/blubber samples, scientists will be able to better understand and protect these killer whales.
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As top predators, killer whales can change the populations of prey species, which in turn affects the rest of the food chain, including local fisheries. Conversely, killer whales are impacted by a number of threats, including climate change, pollution, and competition with fisheries. For example, killer whales that feed on species that are higher up on the food chain are likely to consume higher levels of pollutants, which can affect their reproductive rates and health of their calves.


To better understand the vulnerability of killer whales in Iceland, scientists need to collect data on their diet and behavior. Volunteers will help researchers record observational data from sea and land, as well as collect skin and blubber biopsies that will enable scientists to quantify the level of pollutants in killer whales' bodies, understand their diets, and record their genetic material. This information will help scientists inform sound management policies that protect the whales.

Long-Term Impact

As top predators, killer whales can change the populations of prey species, which can alter the larger food chain. In turn, killer whale populations can be altered by their environment. The more scientists understand about these complex predator-prey relationships, the better informed fisheries and wildlife management policies will be, which is crucial to keeping this complex marine ecosystem, along with Iceland's significant fishing and tourism livelihoods, thriving.


Earthwatch's Killer Whales Research Expedition

Organization Information

Earthwatch Institute

Location: Boston, MA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Heather Wilcox
Boston, MA United States
$25,600 raised of $50,000 goal
27 donations
$24,400 to go
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