The Orca Behavior Institute (OBI) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization started by Monika Wieland Shields and Michael Weiss in March 2015. Our mission is to conduct non-invasive behavioral and acoustic research on the killer whales of the Salish Sea and beyond.

OBI is made up of a small group of passionate community scientists. As long-time viewers of killer whales in the Salish Sea, our initial motivation was to collect year-round data to document some of the trends we were witnessing and to make sure policy could be informed by the latest information. This included the increasing presence of mammal-eating Bigg’s killer whales as well as the increasing absence of the endangered fish-eating Southern Residents. Our first two peer-reviewed publications were on these topics and were only possible due to buy-in from our partners on OBI’s core values of openness and collaboration.

On the water in 2017 with our first research vessel, Serenity

All data collection is non-invasive, occurring either from shore (about 75% of the time) or by boat in accordance with all whale watch regulations and guidelines in Washington State and British Columbia. When on the water, we adhere to the federal regulations established in the US in 2011, all additional state regulations, and the additional voluntary “Be Whale Wise” guidelines followed by the Pacific Whale Watch Association. If you have any questions or concerns about how we operate, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

While initially founded as a science research organization, we have since expanded to include education and advocacy components to our work. We give public lectures throughout the year on the latest data and observations relating to regional orcas. We also mentor high school students, undergraduate and graduate level college students, or recent graduates as they gain field experience as research interns and/or work on independent research projects making use of OBI data. We also partner with other organizations to help distill complex scientific and policy-related details into a more easily understandable format to encourage public engagement in a wide range of conservation issues that impact orcas and the health of the Salish Sea as a whole.

You can help support our research efforts by donating via the PayPal link at the top of our homepage or via recurring monthly donations via Patreon.