Project ORCA- Killer Whale Research

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The Killer Whale, Orcinus orca, is the apex predator of the ocean and one of the most charismatic cetaceans in the world- and yet we still know very little about  this population of orca here in Australian waters.

The Western Australian coastline is home to some of Australia’s largest underwater creatures- killer whales- and Curtin Ph.D. Rebecca Wellard from Project O.R.C.A. is undertaking Australia’s first ever dedicated study on the acoustics of killer whales.

Project O.R.C.A. (Orca Research and Conservation Australia) has been conducting research on the killer whales found in Western Australia since 2014. Working in collaboration with CMST, Curtin University, this project adopts a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the distribution, abundance, bioacoustics and population dynamics of killer whales in Australian waters. Results from this study will provide pertinent data to address the population status of this species and deliver key scientific information for assisting management of Australian killer whales.

We are currently seeking funds to help us out in our next field season in Bremer Bay in 2018. This will be our 5th year out at this field site and we are hoping to continue collecting this crucial data in this unique and pristine environment.

Why is the research important?

Very little is known about killer whales in Australian waters. Their abundance, movements, ecology and population status are yet to be determined for the Australian population. An alarming statistic given their importance in the ecology as the top predator.

Killer whales are currently listed as ‘Data Deficient’, meaning there is insufficient information to assign a conservation listing for the species. This 'Data Deficient' labelling then prevents this species from being categorized accordingly and properly assessed, meaning it also may prevent them from receiving the conservation attention they urgently require.

We currently use a variety of methods to monitor this population. The first and foremost is through


Photo-identifcation is a non-invasive technique that has been used by scientists around the world since the 1970’s to study whale and dolphin populations. Each individual within a population is unique and has certain physical characteristics and markings which distinguish it from other individuals. Using this technique, we can determine things such as calving rates, population estimates, social structure, habitat preferences and range or possible migration route.

We have already catalogued over 100 killer whales from the Bremer Sub-Basin! 

View our catalogue here: Killer Whales Photo-ID Catalogue.

As well as using photo-ID to study the killer whales here in Western Australia, we also use sound – or known as

Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM).

PAM is an inexpensive and effective way of observing cetacean distribution, migration, behaviour and population density.

This is the first dedicated study on the acoustics of killer whales in Australian waters with limited research being conducted due to the killer whale’s transient nature and difficulty of obtaining data using conventional methods.

This acoustic research commenced in 2014 and has been on-going. We have already published the first paper describing the call repertoire of our Australian killer whales. Read more in our published paper here.

And just how do our Australian killer whales sound?? Listen to their Aussie-slang here:

Why killer whales?

Well apart from the killer whales charisma, they also play a very important role in the ecology of the marine environment. Top-order or apex predators like killer whales are vital for keeping the ecosystems healthy. They help maintain balance, keep prey numbers in check and serve as a proxy for the health of the ecosystem.

Apex predators are key to the health of an ecosystem. Without them, everything gets out of balance, leading to cycles of population explosions and crashes.

We have witnessed some incredible moments of this apex predation in action- with our research team being the first in the world to observe  an active hunt and kill upon a beaked whale! Read more about this in our published paper here: Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) Predation on Beaked Whales (Mesoplodon spp.) in the Bremer Sub-Basin, Western Australia.  

What we understand, we can protect.

Right now we know very little about the killer whales here in our Australian waters, and we need to obtain baseline data so we can get a basic understanding of their population status. Once we know more about these killer whales, we can help protect them and the environment they live in.

This important research will enable us to help preserve our marine system for future generations to enjoy.  

And you can be part of this exciting research!

How The Funds Will Be Used



Our next field season is coming up fast, and we are hoping to continue this crucial work on orca here in Australia.

Our field season begins in January 2018, and we will be continuing our dedicated research using photo-identification and acoustic monitoring. We are looking to purchase equipment to continue collecting this data, and require GPS units and camera equipment for our Honours student to utilize in her photo-identification and abundance study.

If we go above our set target –FINGERS CROSSED!!!- we will hope to extend our field season and utilize the money for other field work costs, such as accommodation, boat fuel and other equipment to collect additional data. Your donations will continue to contribute to the research of killer whales and the effects of human actions on their populations and ecology.

With your help, we can continue this important and crucial research.

Rewards Galore!

We have collaborated with artists, illustrators and designers to provide you with unique and we think- AMAZING- rewards. Some of these rewards were not donated and came at a cost and we hope you understand this when it is reflected in the price. The $ amount simply isn’t for the item, but to help us raise funds for the research. All proceeds go directly into field work, with no salaries or personal profits made.

We are limited to use 1 photo to showcase these rewards here on Pozible, if you'd like to see more pictures of these rewards, head on over to our social media pages, links below:


Our rewards are here to entice you to help with our research, and we don't discriminate against your postcode! We ship nationwide in Australia, and if you are overseas, we are happy to ship internationally-as long as you pick up the remaining bill. We have priced International Postage at the flat rate estimated to us from Australia Post, should it go over this cost, we will contact you via email and let you know of any remaining balance. Any queries or concerns just shoot us an email at with your purchase details and address and we can get your item off to you. 

We will try to get all these items out to you before Christmas time, but we do have to wait to reach our target and for the monies to be deposited by Pozible. So fingers crossed we reach our target soon and can send out your item straight away! (P.s. You can help get your item faster by sharing this campaign around to all your salty friends!)


Please remember with the unique platform Pozible provides here for crowdfunding- it is an ALL OR NOTHING result. So if we don't reach our target, then your money will remain in your wallet. Now wouldn't that be sad! If our target isn't reached, we don't receive a cent- which also means you don't get your reward. So SHARING IS CARING- spread the word! Feel free to share it around your friends and online now :) Even if you share to just one friend, it's one more person who learns about the cool killer whales we have here in Australia!

Please donate and share this page! Any donation amount is greatly appreciated and will bring us one step closer in helping to conserve this important and charismatic species!!

The Challenges

Spending months at sea searching for Australia's transient and mobile apex predator might sound like a crazy task.... but it's something we love doing!

Conducting field research – especially in the marine world- can be expensive. Hiring boats, paying for fuel, and spending hours out on the water is costly. So the challenge for us isn't leaving the sight of the shore behind, but finding the resources to take us out there!

The main challenge we have is enough research funds. We have no funding from the government, and we rely upon small research grants and  the generosity of the community - supporters of Project ORCA just like you- who want to contribute to the protection and conservation of killer whales in Australia. 

Any contribution, big or small, is greatly appreciated and will go a long way in helping us learn more and protect the Australian killer whales.

We would like to thank all sponsors and supporters of this important research for their time, money and effort to help a worthy cause.


You can continue to follow our research and ride this wave of science with us -  and don't forget SHARING IS CARING! - so feel free to share these links amongst your friends, family and fellow ocean-lovers:

on 12th Dec 2017 at 3:59pm. The payment portal is closed now.
AU$10 +All GoneManatea Tea InfuserIT'S MANA…TEA TIME!! The ManaTea Tea Infuser loves relaxing in your warm water while it brews your tea! Simply pop off the tail and stuff with your favourite blend of tea leaves. Close it up and set it to steep in your mug. You'll feel like you're king of the sea after 3-5 minutes when your tea is both hot and delicious thanks to the Manatea. Manatea is molded from durable, food-safe silicone. Manatea is dishwasher & microwave safe! MAKES A GREAT GIFT FOR ANY TEA LOVER!!
15 Chosen | 0 AvailableEst. delivery is January 2018
AU$15 +Project ORCA Magnets & Complimentary Sticker PackCustom made fridge magnets with images of our Australian orca on them! You will receive 2 fridge magnets, and just because we feel like giving, we’ll also throw in a Project ORCA sticker pack as well! Stickers include unique artwork designed for Project ORCA by Michelle Fleur.
14 Chosen | 11 AvailableEst. delivery is January 2018
AU$20 +All GoneWhale Tail Silver NecklaceWear the ocean close to your heart with this Whale Tail pendant necklace with silver chain.
20 Chosen | 0 AvailableEst. delivery is January 2018
AU$20 +Project ORCA MugFor the true orca-fanatic enjoy your morning cup of tea surrounded by killer whales! Incredible orca artwork by the talented Australian Michelle Fleur wrapped around a white ceramic mug for the orca lover’s morning coffee. Available only in white.
35 Chosen | Unlimited AvailableEst. delivery is January 2018
AU$25 +Project ORCA Quality Cotton Canvas BagPlastic pollution is killing our marine life.30% of the world’s turtles & 90% of seabird species have now ingested plastic debris. One of the serious offenders is plastic bags.Australians use around 4 billion plastic bags every year-that’s a whopping 10 million or so each day.An estimated 50 million of these end up in our waterways and ocean! BAN THE BAG & use this tote bag made from heavy 100% cotton canvas with reinforced shoulder strap•Artwork by Michelle Fleur & Ella Murphy.In Black or Cream
18 Chosen | Unlimited AvailableEst. delivery is January 2018
AU$30 +Project ORCA trucker capCustom designed Project ORCA cap for both men and women. One size fits all, with adjustable plastic tab at rear. This black and white cap features a 5 panel design with flat peak, padded peak and front panel with a mesh side and back panel to let that sea breeze flow through. The orca artwork has been custom designed exclusively for Project ORCA by West Australian artist Ella Murphy.
18 Chosen | 12 AvailableEst. delivery is January 2018
AU$35 +Project ORCA Keep CupEvery minute around the world over 1 million disposable cups are discarded to landfill or end up in our oceans. Project ORCA has partnered with Keep Cup to make sure you enjoy your coffee or tea safe in the knowledge that it won’t threaten marine wildlife. Enjoy your brew while reducing your waste & supporting dedicated marine research here in Australia. - 100% recyclable at the end of their life - Lightweight & unbreakable - Made of nontoxic polypropylene & BPA/BPS free - Medium size: 340mL
26 Chosen | Unlimited AvailableEst. delivery is January 2018
AU$50 +Project ORCA Women's Tee or Muscle TankGet some more orca in your life by putting it in your wardrobe! These tees and tanks are just the start of our Project ORCA range that is still in development. Here is a snippet available to you exclusively through this campaign. Design done by West Australian artist Ella Murphy, these women's tees come in two different colours (Black and Green) in this design, or the muscle tank in charcoal. Your choice! Sizes needed when ordered, and we will get them custom made! How special is that.
14 Chosen | Unlimited AvailableEst. delivery is February 2018
AU$55 +NingalooStripe Leggings made from plastic bottles!Ningaloo Stripe Leggings from Ningaloo Swimwear made in Repreve Fabric! Hot Yogis, Swimmers, Runners and spinners celebrate with these leggings - SPF50+, PET recycled material, Ideal for surfing or SUPing and your active lifestyle. Who knew you could look so good in recycled plastic bottles!! From the amazing team at Ningaloo Swimwear, this is one of our favourite rewards. Sizes available in 8, 10 or 12. Sizes are a smaller fit.
6 Chosen | 4 AvailableEst. delivery is January 2018
AU$55 +Ningaloo Whale Shark 3/4 LeggingsWhale Shark Leggings from Ningaloo Swimwear! Hot Yogis, Swimmers, Runners and spinners celebrate with these 3/4 leggings with a whale shark print taken on our own Western Australian Ningaloo Reef! Ideal for surfing or SUPing & your active lifestyle. From the amazing team at Ningaloo Swimwear, this is one of our favourite rewards. Sizes available in 8 or 10. Sizes are a smaller fit.
1 Chosen | 3 AvailableEst. delivery is January 2018
AU$60 +All GoneSchool visit by Project ORCA’s Rebecca WellardProject ORCA’s Rebecca Wellard has been conducting research on whales & dolphins for over a decade now & is passionate about outreach & education. Visiting your school Rebecca will chat to students about her research & stories of a marine biologist… like how it feels to have whale snot on your face & live out at sea. Rebecca will discuss whale communication & how man-made noise may be impacting them.There will be PRIZES for students with the most creative answers. **Only available in Perth area.
3 Chosen | 0 AvailableEst. delivery is June 2018
AU$100 +Photo of Killer Whale off Western AustraliaA large photo of your choice of one of Australia's killer whales shot by researcher Bec Wellard whilst out in the field at Bremer Sub-Basin. This image will be 40cm x 50cm and ready for you to place in your frame and hang at home. Each photo is printed onto quality Fujifilm Crystal Archive paper in Matte or Gloss & is ready to be placed on display in your home or office. There are 4 to choose from here, pick your favorite & we will send it to you in a protected mailing tube.
7 Chosen | Unlimited AvailableEst. delivery is January 2018
AU$100 +Private Watercolouring class by Mahina ArtsThe lovely artist Annarine Chapman from Mahina Arts, is offering up a private one on one class with herself to teach you the strokes of watercolour & do an orca art piece with you- which you get to keep! Annarine will be bringing all supplies for the class & it will be a two hour class taking place in Perth, bookings after 2nd week in January 2018. Anne will also give you a Daniel Smith dotcard & a calendar from Mahina Arts! Check out Anne's work here:
1 Chosen | 1 AvailableEst. delivery is November 2017
AU$500 +All GoneUnique one-off orca artwork by Mahina ArtsAn incredible one-off piece of artwork by Mahina Arts done specifically for Project ORCA featuring one of Western Australia’s most loved & well-known killer whale, Split Tip. Artist & illustrator Annarine Chapman of Mahina Arts generously donated this artwork to assist Project ORCA & our research efforts to save and conserve Australia’s killer whales. This painting is sealed & ready for it’s new home. Details : 40cm x 60cm. Done on a J.Burrows 100% unbleached cotton , acid-free 380gsm canvas.
1 Chosen | 0 AvailableEst. delivery is January 2018
AU$500 +Unique orca art piece by Sandy Dayz ArtistsAn incredible one-off piece of artwork by Melissa Skinner from Sandy Dayz Arts done specifically for Project ORCA featuring one of Bremer's famous killer whales- Cookie. Cookie is one of Western Australia’s most loved & well-known orca & is easily identifiable by the cookie-shaped nick out of her dorsal fin. Original New Dot Painting with colours inspired by the deep offshore waters of Bremer. This painting is framed & ready for it’s new home. 76cm x 50cm acrylic products on block canvas.
0 Chosen | 1 AvailableEst. delivery is January 2018