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Lance Barrett-Lennard is a Canadian biologist specializing in the behavioural ecology and population biology of Killer whales. A molecular geneticist, Barrett-Lennard uses DNA analysis to study the dispersal, mating habits, and group structure of killer whale sub-populations in the Pacific Northwest. He is best known for his research concerning the conservation of the southern resident killer whale sub-population. Currently, he is the director of the Marine Mammal Research Program headquartered at the Coastal Ocean Research Institute (CORI), a research branch of the Vancouver Aquarium.[1]

Lance Barrett-Lennard
Alma materB.Sc., (1980) University of Guelph M.Sc., (1992) Ph.D., (2000) University of British Columbia
OccupationBiologist, molecular geneticist, professor
OrganizationVancouver Aquarium (Marine Mammal Research Program, Coastal Ocean Research Institute, 2001-Present)
Known forKiller whale population ecology, Marine Mammal Research Program, B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network



Lance Barrett-Lennard attained a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada (1976-1980), and went on to complete a Master of Science in Biology at the University of British Columbia in British Columbia, Canada (1992). Barrett-Lennard also gained his doctorate at the University of British Columbia where he studied the role of genetics in the mating systems and population subdivisions of killer whales.[2]


Following the completion of his Ph.D., Barrett-Lennard took a research scientist position with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (formerly DFO) at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, British Columbia where he continued studying the role of genetics in the population structure of killer whale sub-populations.[3] In 2001, he accepted his current role as Director of the Marine Mammal Research Program at the Vancouver Aquarium.[4]


One of many research units at the Vancouver Aquarium, the Marine Mammal Research Program (MMRP) conducts research on Killer Whales, Humpback Whales, Harbour Porpoises, Beluga Whales, Sea Otters, and a host of other marine mammals.[5] A major branch of the MMRP is The B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, a whale sightings report system that relies heavily on Citizen science.[6] The B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network facilitates the reporting of whale sightings through the WhaleReport mobile app. Details on whale locations are then used by the WhaleReport Alert System to notify nearby vessels of cetaceans in their vicinity and to encourage them to take precautionary or evasive action.[7] Data from the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network is also used to encourage the practice of land-based whale watching. In 2015, the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network partnered with the Whale Trail, a Seattle-based organization dedicated on identifying potential land-based whale watching sites in the Pacific Northwest. Land-based whale watching is viewed as a zero-impact alternative to traditional boat-based whale watching. As of recent, the WhaleTrail B.C. has identified 39 such sites.[8] In addition, sightings data is available to academic researchers, industry, and NGOs to aid conservation-based research projects. Recent discoveries involving sightings data include a newly discovered hot spot of Pacific white-sided dolphin in the Howe Sound area in 2010, and the discovery of a feeding ground utilized by Gray whales in Baynes Sound.[9] Barrett-Lennard has made significant research contributions relating to the conservation of killer whales. Through DNA analysis, Barrett-Lennard and his colleagues have shown that the killer whale population in the northeastern pacific ocean is divided into at least nine sympatric sub-populations.[10] His research focuses on evidence of sympatric speciation in killer whale subpopulations inhabiting the northeastern Pacific Ocean. His work has shown that killer whale sub-populations vary significantly in their diet[11], behaviour[12], and feeding grounds.[13] His work has unveiled wide variability in the diet of killer whale sub-populations. Barrett-Lennard's most cited study showed that the Southern resident killer whale is primarily piscivorous, and 96% of its diet is comprised of salmonids.[14] The same study also discovered a distinct preference for mammalian prey by the Southern Transient Killer Whale sub-population.[15] He has also shown that offshore killer whales may prey on Pacific sleeper shark, the first identified observation of the species being targeted as prey.[16] In 2008, Barrett-Lennard's research was used by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife to officially list the Southern Resident Killer Whale as an endangered species[17][18] Barrett-Lennard's most recent work focuses on the use of drone-based aerial photogrammetry to remotely observe health and body condition of killer whales.[19] His team has showed that images captured by drones can be used to estimate blubber fat reserves and subsequently body condition by analyzing features such as head shape and eyepatch proportions.[20] Barrett-Lennard has also used drones to remotely monitor the respiratory microbiome of killer whales by aerially capturing samples of exhaled breath or "blow".[21]


Barrett-Lennard has been a featured speaker at the annual B.C Marine Mammal Symposium in Vancouver, British Columbia. Barrett-Lennard has also shared his research with CBC News[22] and CTV News.[23] He has also voiced his scientific opinion on the controversial Harbor seal cull[24] and the Trans Mountain Pipeline.[25] Barrett-Lennard is arguably most well known for documenting the link between the decline of Chinook salmon in the Pacific Northwest and the endangered status of the southern resident killer whale through aerial images of starving individuals[26][27][28][29]

Selected Publications

  • Fearnbach, Holly; Durban, John; Barrett‐Lennard, Lance; Ellifrit, David; Balcomb, Kenneth (2019-08-01). "Evaluating the power of photogrammetry for monitoring killer whale body condition". Marine Mammal Science. doi:10.1111/mms.12642.
  • Apprill, Amy; Miller, Carolyn; Moore, Michael; Durban, John; Fearnbach, Holly; Barrett-Lennard, Lance (2017-10-31). "Extensive Core Microbiome in Drone-Captured Whale Blow Supports a Framework for Health Monitoring". mSystems. 2: e00119–17. doi:10.1128/mSystems.00119-17.</ref>
  • Heise, Kathy; Barrett-Lennard, Lance; Chapman, Ross; Dakin, Tom; Erbe, Christine; Hannay, David; Merchant, Nathan; Pilkington, James; Thornton, Sheila (2017-08-01). PROPOSED METRICS FOR THE MANAGEMENT OF UNDERWATER NOISE FOR SOUTHERN RESIDENT KILLER WHALES. Coastal Ocean Report Series.
  • Heise, Kathy; Barrett-Lennard, Lance (2016-07-10). "A new paradigm for underwater noise management in coastal areas: Acoustic compensation". Acoustical Society of America. 27: 032001. doi:10.1121/2.0000284.

Lance Barrett-Lennard's research and lecture videos


  1. "Ocean Wise Research". Retrieved 2019-10-31.
  2. "Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard". Retrieved 2019-10-31.
  3. "Vancouver Aquarium". Retrieved 2019-10-31.
  4. "Vancouver Aquarium". Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  5. "Ocean Wise Research". Retrieved 2019-10-31.
  6. "Wildwhales". Retrieved 2019-10-31.
  7. "The WhaleReport Alert System | WildWhales". Retrieved 2019-10-31.
  8. "The Whale Trail BC | WildWhales". Retrieved 2019-10-31.
  9. "How Sightings Are Used | WildWhales". Retrieved 2019-10-31.
  10. Barrett-Lennard, Lance Godfrey (October 31, 2000). "Population structure and mating patterns of Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) as revealed by DNA analysis" – via
  11. Saulitis, Eva; Matkin, Craig; Barrett‐Lennard, Lance; Heise, Kathy; Ellis, Graeme (October 31, 2000). "Foraging Strategies of Sympatric Killer Whale (orcinus Orca) Populations in Prince William Sound, Alaska". Marine Mammal Science. 16 (1): 94–109. doi:10.1111/j.1748-7692.2000.tb00906.x – via Wiley Online Library.
  12. Barrett-lennard, LANCE G.; Ford, JOHN K. B.; Heise, KATHY A. (March 1, 1996). "The mixed blessing of echolocation: differences in sonar use by fish-eating and mammal-eating killer whales". Animal Behaviour. 51 (3): 553–565. doi:10.1006/anbe.1996.0059 – via ScienceDirect.
  13. Krahn, Margaret M.; Herman, David P.; Matkin, Craig O.; Durban, John W.; Barrett-Lennard, Lance; Burrows, Douglas G.; Dahlheim, Marilyn E.; Black, Nancy; LeDuc, Richard G.; Wade, Paul R. (March 1, 2007). "Use of chemical tracers in assessing the diet and foraging regions of eastern North Pacific killer whales". Marine Environmental Research. 63 (2): 91–114. doi:10.1016/j.marenvres.2006.07.002 – via ScienceDirect.
  14. Ford, John KB; Ellis, Graeme M; Barrett-Lennard, Lance G; Morton, Alexandra B; Palm, Rod S; Balcomb III, Kenneth C (August 1, 1998). "Dietary 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. doi:10.1139/z98-089 – via NRC Research Press.
  15. Ford, John KB; Ellis, Graeme M; Barrett-Lennard, Lance G; Morton, Alexandra B; Palm, Rod S; Balcomb III, Kenneth C (1998-08-01). "Dietary 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. doi:10.1139/z98-089. ISSN 0008-4301.
  16. Ford, JKB; Ellis, GM; Matkin, CO; Wetklo, MH; Barrett-Lennard, LG; Withler, RE (2011-01-06). "Shark predation and tooth wear in a population of northeastern Pacific killer whales". Aquatic Biology. 11 (3): 213–224. doi:10.3354/ab00307. ISSN 1864-7782.
  17. Government of Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (October 30, 2018). "Protecting Southern Resident Killer Whales".
  18. "Species Profile (Killer Whale) - Species at Risk Public Registry". Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  19. "Ocean Wise Research - Body Condition of Killer Whales". Retrieved 2019-10-31.
  20. Fearnbach, Holly; Durban, John W.; Barrett‐Lennard, Lance G.; Ellifrit, David K.; Balcomb, Kenneth C. "Evaluating the power of photogrammetry for monitoring killer whale body condition". Marine Mammal Science. 0 (0). doi:10.1111/mms.12642. ISSN 1748-7692.
  21. Apprill, Amy; Miller, Carolyn A.; Moore, Michael J.; Durban, John W.; Fearnbach, Holly; Barrett-Lennard, Lance G. (2017-10-31). "Extensive Core Microbiome in Drone-Captured Whale Blow Supports a Framework for Health Monitoring". mSystems. 2 (5). doi:10.1128/mSystems.00119-17. ISSN 2379-5077. PMID 29034331.
  23. "Two endangered B.C. orcas expected to starve by summer | CTV News".
  24. "Opinion: Harbour seals are easy scapegoats in Chinook salmon decline | Vancouver Sun". July 31, 2018.
  25. Guesgen, Mirjam (January 30, 2019). "Pipeline Work Destroyed Salmon Habitat, Puts Orcas at Risk, Scientists Say".
  26. "'Grandmother' Killer Whale is at risk of starvation - CBC".
  27. "2 more killer whales will likely die by summer - CBC".
  28. "Two endangered B.C. orcas expected to starve by summer - CTV".
  29. "Researchers worried killer whale population will flatline with female deaths - Vancouver Sun".

External links

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