Toxicology and Societies: Deborah Giles

Wild Orca


End Date



Event Description

Title: From Poop to Policy - What Feces Can Tell Us About the Health of the Endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. 

Despite being one of the eight most endangered species on the Endangered Species List and one of the most studied populations of animals on the planet, the Southern Resident killer whales continue to decline.

Wild Orca’s mission, to save the whales from extinction, is aided first by conducting on-the-water non-invasive research, collecting and analyzing fecal samples, and next, by putting the findings into the hands of the public and policymakers so that meaningful actions can be taken to reverse the declining trend in the population.

Dr. Giles will give an overview of Wild Orca’s Southern Resident Killer Whale Health Monitoring Program as well as a summary of collaborative research projects being conducted by some of the most respected names in wildlife conservation research that together, paint a near real-time picture of the health of endangered Southern Resident killer whales and provide timely data to the public and management agencies used to understand and address the causes of population decline.

About the Speaker: Deborah Giles, Wild Orca

Dr. Giles is the Science and Research Director at the non-profit Wild orca. She received her PhD from the University of California Davis in 2014 – her dissertation was focused on the federally listed Southern Resident killer whales. Giles is currently a resident scientist and lecturer at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs, where she teaches Marine Mammals of the Salish Sea and Marine Biology.

Between 2009-2021 Giles worked as the vessel captain for the University of Washington, utilizing a scat detection dog to locate floating killer whale scat to monitor the physiological health of southern resident killer whales. This killer whale health assessment program is now a program of the non-profit Wild Orca.

Giles is also a killer whale scientific adviser for the Orca Salmon Alliance, a program advisor for Killer Whale Tales, and she is the co-founder of the San Juan Island Naturalist Program.


A recording of this presentation is available through The Foundation for WWU and Alumni.

Back to the Toxicology and Societies home page.