Our Team

North Coast Cetacean Society (BC Whales)

We are a non-profit whale-research organization dedicated to the research and protection of cetaceans (all whales, dolphins and porpoise) along the northern coast of British Columbia. This project began 18 years ago with two people on a journey to learn about the fall and winter movements of orca. Their arrival in Gitga’at territory coincided with the return of the great humpback and fin whales to B.C waters. With the support and permission of the Gitga’at First Nation of Hartley Bay, NCCS now operates two research stations along the coastal regions that surround the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia. These stations focus on the populations and habitat use of humpback whales, fin whales and orca. Our research includes both land- and boat-based whale surveys, and acoustic monitoring of the area through an underwater hydrophone network.

Board of Directors

JANIE WRAY

Janie Wray, CEO and lead researcher for BC Whales, has studied the acoustic traditions and culture of whale behaviour for the last 20 years. She is the co-founder of the North Coast Cetacean Society and Cetacea Lab. In 2016 she founded BC Whales and the Fin Island Marine Institute and became the science director for our research partner Orcalab. She is devoted to the protection of whales and their precious habitat needs along the coast of British Columbia.

ERIC KEEN

Eric first began working with BCWhales and the Gitga’at First Nation as a volunteer intern in 2010. He continued with a doctoral thesis project focused on whale foraging ecology, which he conducted as a graduate student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. As a post-doctoral fellow at University of Victoria, he worked with BC Whales in their launch of a new research station Fin Island. He now serves as the Science Co-director for BC Whales and is focused on their visual and aerial survey programs. He teaches at Sewanee: The University of the South, where he works with undergraduate students on data analysis and trains them in field science. He is also a research biologist for the Foundation for Marine Ecology & Telemetry Research.

JENN DICKIE

Jenn Dickie has spent the past 20 years and living in coastal British Columbia. Her winters have been spent high in the mountains working in safety and management in the ski industry and her summers on the ocean as a wilderness guide and educator. Jenn has been involved with NCCS since she first brought guests ashore to Cetatcea Lab in 2002 to learn about the work they were doing in the area. She is an avid photographer who strives to capture the beauty and abundance of these coastal waters, from the smallest flower to the mightiest whale. Her work can be seen throughout this website and at jenndickie.com.

HAYLEY SHEPPERD

25 years ago Hayley moved to Canada with a teaching background specializing in Outdoor and Environmental Education. Her first tour of duty was as a research assistant at Orca Lab on Hanson Island in BC, studying Northern Resident Orca. This experience steered Hayley to take on full time work as a wilderness guide and educator where she led people from all over the world into the rich and diverse marine mammal, bear and bird habitat of the BC coast. This work involved operating various vessels, dealing with safety protocols and risk management. With Hayley’s profound interest and care for the diverse wildlife and natural environment of this region, she was thrilled to join the NCCS board of directors in 2010.

MARVEN ROBINSON

Marven is a councillor in the community of Hartley Bay in the Great Bear Rainforest where he lives and owns and has operated his tourism business, Gitga’at Spirit Tours for over 15 years. He is an advocate for the environment, animals, and their habitats, Marven is an expert on Gitga’at territory.  In addition to his work in tourism and environmental monitoring and protection, Marven also has tremendous knowledge and skill in the forestry sector.

Research & Operators

GRACE BAER

Grace is a biologist, conservationist, and the research and project manager for BC Whales. Growing up near Tsawwassen, BC and spending almost every summer of her childhood along the shorelines of Saratoga Beach on Vancouver Island, Grace developed a deep connection to the ocean and a special curiosity about the elusive lives of whales. Grace initially joined the BC Whales team in 2019 and now leads data collection and data processing during the field season as well as leads the scar monitoring and drone focal follow projects.

BEN HENDRICKS

Ben is working with acoustic data collected through NCCS hydrophones. He leads the acoustic component of the SWAG project – Ships, Whales and Acoustics in Gitga’at Territory – a collaboration between the Gitga’at First Nation, NCCS, and WWF-Canada. He designs and develops acoustic analysis software for the local marine ecosystem that monitors bioacoustic signals, ambient noise and vessels, thus collecting experience in ocean acoustics, marine biology, machine learning, software engineering, and marine traffic control. Ben studied physics in Germany and Canada and for his PhD he worked as a near-field cosmologist, analyzing data from nearby galaxies. He first encountered whales while kayaking in BC and has been fascinated in the marine wildlife of Canada ever since. Originally from Germany, Ben is now a permanent Canadian resident and lives on Vancouver Island.

JOEL MELLISH

Joel has a computer engineering degree from The University of Victoria, and an electronics technologist diploma from Camosun College. His background is in remote environmental monitoring, with the goal to assist organizations in building technical solutions to monitor the natural world. As the Remote Systems Engineer for the BC Hydrophone Network, Joel helps to improve and maintain existing shore systems and research labs to each meet the challenges of their unique environments, as well as to assist new partners in realizing their own goals for underwater acoustic monitoring. Aside from an interest in wildlife and biodiversity, Joel is an obsessive runner, and spends his time on trails, swimming and snorkeling, and unwinding near his home on Galiano Island with his wife and dog.

ÉADIN O’MAHONY

Éadin is a PhD researcher with the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at the University of St Andrews’ Scottish Oceans Institute and the University of Copenhagen’s Globe Institute. She has been collaborating with the Gitga’at First Nation and the North Coast Cetacean Society (www.bcwhales.org) since 2017 and is working on several projects spanning from non-invasive sources of DNA (such as whale blow and eDNA) for biodiversity monitoring and conservation genetics; to the integration of diverse ethnoecological knowledge systems for the purposes of marine conservation, ocean governance and decolonising research.

Krista Roessingh and Ingmar

Krista and Ingmar have lived on Denny Island, near Bella Bella, in Heiltsuk Territory since 2007. They have been doing passive acoustic monitoring with NCCS since 2019, and started conducting boat-based cetacean surveys in 2020 through a protocol agreement with the Heiltsuk Nation, sometimes with the help of their sons Desmond and Zephyr. They are thrilled to be able to use their skills in field research towards monitoring ocean acoustics and humpback habitat use, and building a catalogue of local humpback whales for the community.

Erin Wall

Erin is a Mitacs Elevate postdoctoral fellow and holds a PhD in Neuroscience from McGill University where she studied the impact of social bonding on auditory perception, acoustic communication, and neural plasticity in female songbirds. Erin received her Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Psychology and Editing, Writing, and Media from Florida State University.

Erin has always been fascinated by communication and expression, from music and language in humans to communication signals and behavior in non-human animals. Erin is currently collaborating with the North Coast Cetacean Society, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, and the University of Windsor to uncover the factors that shape humpback whale song learning in the northern Pacific feeding grounds.