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KUOW's environment beat brings you stories on the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, alternative energy, the health of the Puget Sound, coal transportation and more. We're also partnered with several stations across the Northwest to bring you environmental news via EarthFix.

Taking Killer Whale Research To Pacific Northwest Classrooms

Ashley Ahearn

Scientists believe that lack of food, underwater noise and pollution have contributed to the decline of Puget Sound’s iconic killer whales. One man is taking the latest orca research into classrooms around the Northwest.

“Hey, good morning!” Jeff Hogan exclaims to a class of bright-eyed grade schoolers at the Eton Montessori School in Bellevue, Washington. “What are we going to talk about today?” Hogan asks the class.

Seventeen voices respond, as one, from the floor in front of him: “Orcas!”

Hogan is the brains and character behind Killer Whale Tales. It’s a sort of traveling road show that combines science with storytelling.

Hogan has presented this program to almost 10,000 kids this year in classrooms from Santa Cruz, Calif. to Bellingham, Wash.

That region, as it turns out, is also the range for the J, K and L pods of southern resident killer whales that call the Northwest home.

Last fall Hogan was on a research expedition with NOAA scientists as they attached a suction tag to a member of the K pod. The tag gathered data about the whale’s depth and the calls it was making over a period of a few hours. Hogan took the data, boiled it down, and, today, he’s having the kids map it on a graph with him, to follow the whale’s journey.