About Us

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Humans and Algorithms Listening to Orcas explores the concept of training artificial intelligence systems to detect underwater whale vocalizations. The research goal is to develop a whale forecasting system to warn nearby ships of whale presence. This could prevent potentially fatal ship strikes for the endangered Southern Resident killer whales and other whale species that frequent the waters of the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest.

To train the artificial intelligence systems, we use recordings of verified whale vocalizations from several hydrophones located around the Salish Sea. These hydrophones are operated by various partners including citizen scientists and projects like the Orcasound project.

Our Research Progress

HALLO formed and began research efforts in 2019. Since then, we’ve been working on several objectives that work towards developing the real-time whale forecasting system in the Salish Sea.

Call Catalogue

Visit the Southern Resident Killer Whale Call Catalogue!

Researchers are currently aiming to “teach” artificial intelligence systems to recognize the sounds of resident killer whales in order to develop a warning system for preventing ships from fatally striking endangered orcas off British Columbia’s coast.

Data used to train artificial intelligence systems come from various sources: from hydrophone nodes located near shipping lanes, to the contributions of Citizen Scientists and projects like the Orcasound project.

The catalogue website shares a curated collection of orca acoustics and annotations which represent the type of samples used in machine learning datasets. The samples in the catalogue demonstrate the complexity of communication within pods.

These samples have been gathered through decades of research by Dr. John Ford, scientist emeritus, and former head of cetacean research at Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Pacific Biological Station.

Classification Models

Our team has developed models that identify the source of underwater sounds. For example, we have a binary classification model that classifies sounds into one of two categories - the sound was made by a Killer whale or the sound was not made by a Killer whale. These models were developed with data from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, JASCO, SMRU, … .

Check out these open source models on our public GitHub repository. There you can find instructions, scripts, and configuration files required to train deep learning models at detecting and classifying vocalisations made by Killer whales.

Forecast Models

Our team is also developing models that will ultimately be able to forecast whale locations based on hydrophone detections, visual observations from citizen science groups, and environmental data. This system will allow us to alert nearby ship captains, shipping ports, and … when a whale is forecasted to be entering their path and risk-reducing measures can be taken to limit disturbance to the whales.

Killer whale by Photographer Name

Outreach & Engagement

We hosted a ‘Bioacoustics Workshop’ in August of 2022 to faciliate engagement both within the HALLO group and the wider community. Topics discussed range from whale sightings and conservation to the application of using deep learning models to identify whale calls.

Links to the full list of video recordings & slide presentations can be found here

The Team

This would be a good spot for a team photo – probably from a Zoom call.


Dr. Ruth Joy, Principal Investigator

  • School of Environmental Science, Simon Fraser University

Dr. Steven Bergner

  • School of Computing Science, Simon Fraser University

Dr. Mike Dowd

  • Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Dalhousie University

Fabio Frazao

  • Department of Computer Science, Dalhousie University

Dr. Oliver Kirsebom

  • Open Ocean Robotics

Dr. Scott Viers

  • OrcaSound Collective, Beam Reach Marine Science and Sustainability School

Paul Nguyen Hong Duc

  • School of Mathematics and Statistics, Carleton University

Dr. Dave Campbell

  • School of Mathematics and Statistics, Carleton University


SMRU Consulting

  • Jason Wood

JASCO Applied Sciences

  • Jennifer Wladichuk, April Houweling, David Hannay

Ocean Network Canada

  • Jasper Kanes

Saturna Island Marine Research and Education Society (SIMRES)

  • Dr. Martin Wale

Digital Alliance Canada

  • Jillian Andersen

Logos of collaborators could probably be included here too.