Who We Are

Founders and directors

Dr Paul Spong

Founder and Co-Director

Dr. Paul Spong is the President of the Pacific Orca Society, and founder of OrcaLab. He acquired a Ph.D. in physiological psychology from U.C.L.A. in 1966. Dr. Spong began studying dolphins and orcas in 1967, initially in captivity, then in the wild. His insights led to his involvement in the save-the-whales movement during the 1970s. In the 1980’s, following the “moratorium” on commercial whaling, he returned to full-time research. His work is focused on the long-term life history of the ‘Northern Resident Community’ of British Columbia orcas and on the protection of orca habitat. He created the “Free Corky” campaign in 1990 and has worked tirelessly on behalf of captive whales and dolphins. At OrcaLab, he has been involved in implementing technology that connects people to the natural world via the Internet (Orca Live, explore). Of deep concern to him are climate change issues.

Helena Symonds

Co-Director

Helena Symonds is a co-director of OrcaLab. Helena obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre at the University of British Columbia. After receiving her teacher qualifications she taught at the Alert Bay School. In partnership with Paul, she has been developing OrcaLab since 1979. Helena’s special interests are in orca acoustics, social aspects of orca behaviour, and impacts of human activities on orca habitat. Helena is largely responsible for the “assistant” programme which has brought more than 300 international volunteers to OrcaLab since 1983. With Japanese and American partners, Helena and Paul have brought the everyday life of orcas to the world via the Web. Together, they are involved in numerous quality-of-life issues that affect orcas and other marine wildlife, including commercial whaling, captivity, whale watching and Critical Habitat.

Our team

Claire Guillaume

Lab Coordinator & Graphic Designer

Since 2010, Claire has devoted a lot of her time to helping wildlife conservation projects and supporting the work of scientists as a field assistant, photographer, graphic & web designer, french translator and creative consultant. Fascinated by the work of OrcaLab for years, she first came to Hanson Island in 2019 with her partner Jérémie and fell in love with the place, off-grid living and our philosophy. She coordinates the daily running of the lab, photography, graphic design (have you seen our beautiful merch yet?) and data collection.

Jérémie Collado

Sound Technician and Videographer

Jérémie’s love for wildlife and sound brought him to discover OrcaLab with Claire in the summer of 2019. As a sound technician and videographer, he has been stunned visually and acoustically by life above and below the surface. Jérémie continues to help us improve our audio network and assists with all kinds of projects that require audiovisual, electrical or mechanical skills. He cannot live far away from the ocean, so the wildness of Hanson Island brings that special something he cherishes.

Suzie Hall

Operations Manager

Suzie first visited us in 2017. After graduating with a Master’s of Physics from the University of Leeds, she followed her lifelong love of whales and the ocean to BC. She was drawn in by the mysterious acoustic world of the orcas and a desire to aid in their protection. Suzie assists in operational oversight and strategic planning for OrcaLab.

Megan Hockin-Bennett

Videographer and Archivist

Megan arrived in British Columbia in 2012 with a passion for whales and capturing the natural world. Over the past decade, Megan has been creating beautiful videos for us, managing our content and deploying our remote cameras. She is now an award-winning filmmaker. From skiing at the top of the mountain to diving the depths of the ocean, Megan enjoys spending every second outdoors.

Quin McIntire

Systems Technician

Quin found OrcaLab by canoe in February 2019. He was completely taken in by our work and returned that fall to learn more. Since then, he has become an incredible help to our efforts through the maintenance of our remote off-grid systems. He is responsible for installs and upgrades to our infrastructure each year, alongside managing our local network and live streams.

Our dedicated Friends

We have welcomed guests at OrcaLab since the 1980s and could not do what we do without their help. We have many dedicated friends and could not possibly name them all. Here are some of the ‘regulars’ who return often and help us identify calls by listening live from all corners of the world!

If you’ve spent time assisting at the lab over the past few decades and would like to be included on this page, please send us an email.

Listen now

Stream our live hydrophone audio