On boats and in labs, biologists study the dwindling population of orcas living in the waters off the San Juan Islands between Canada and Washington.
A study that began in 1971 is continued today by scientists from the Center for Whale Research. They photograph each orca in what are called the Southern Resident pods, follow them in the field, take blubber samples, collect their scat, and perform extensive lab analyses of their data. This attractively illustrated title introduces these family-loving mammals, often misnamed “killer whales.” The Southern Residents are fish eaters; their usual prey are salmon, whose populations are also shrinking. Joining researchers in a small boat, the author observes a mother teaching her calf to fish. She describes another series of studies proving that sounds made by boats stress the orcas. She demonstrates the use of dogs trained to find whale scat and the use of a camera-equipped drone to photograph the pods without disturbing them. Between six longer chapters are shorter sections of whale facts as well as descriptions of the Samish Nation orca-naming ceremony, orca food around the world, a captive whale in Florida, and a Chinook salmon’s migration; there are also suggestions for reader involvement. The exposition here is less immediate than in some other entries in this long-running series, the narrative arc hard to follow, and the maps unclear, but the story is important.
Fans of these popular marine mammals will be intrigued. (glossary, selected bibliography and sources, acknowledgements and author’s note, photo credits, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)