Volker Deecke main

New professor’s international collaborations spearheading orca protection

For the last three decades killer whale expert Volker Deecke has been delving deep into ocean life, listening to marine mammals and being a powerful voice in their protection.

In his influential career to date, he has played a pivotal role in collaborative research which has assisted governments in Canada, Iceland, USA and the UK in developing strategies to protect killer whales in their waters.

This year Volker has been to Madrid to join an International Whaling Commission (IWC) panel of scientists. The panel has been established to identify measures to support solutions following well-documented incidents between fishing boats and an endangered Iberian orca population off the coasts of Spain, Portugal and Morocco.

This month Volker will present his international research for the first time as a newly appointed professor.

Volker’s expertise focuses on the role of behavioural research in wildlife conservation, specifically understanding underwater communication and the effect of underwater noise. 

A Sound Approach to Killer Whale Conservation: Understanding and Protecting the Ocean’s Top Predator’ is the opening event of the University of Cumbria 2024 Inaugural Professorial Lecture series.

Volker will discuss how he uses innovative digital recording tags to understand the behaviour of mammal-hunting and fish-eating killer whales in the Northeast Pacific. Killer whales are the top predators in marine ecosystems and are found in all the world’s oceans, yet surprisingly little is known about how these animals communicate and find their prey.

Orca D-tag

Above: Digital recording tag on the dorsal fin of a killer whale

Guests are due to travel from around the world, including Volker’s daughter who lives in Denmark and his parents who are making the trip from their home in Austria, to attend his lecture at the university’s Ambleside campus taking place on 20 March.

German-born Volker said: “It is an honour to be made a Professor of Wildlife Conservation and be part of the strong and growing international research body at the university. Serving on the IWC panel is an illustration of how we work and share knowledge to make a positive difference on the world around us through innovative and applied practice.

He added: “In relation to wildlife conservation, monitoring and assessing underwater sound and noise is crucial. We need to learn and understand how this human-made noise disrupts the behaviour, health, and essential life processes of marine mammals.

“Equipment and technology already exist to make mitigation measures that can help protect these magnificent mammals and maintain the balance in our oceans, but knowledge and adoption of them is not yet widespread – it will take time alongside careful consideration by policymakers. For example, we can make ships quieter but what we do currently is the equivalent of running cars without mufflers.”


Above: Monitoring orca populations

The University of Cumbria inaugural professional lecture series showcases the research specialisms of its recently appointed professors and gives them public recognition for achieving academic distinction and reputation in their chosen field.

The series also includes:

  • 16 April – Professor Tom Grimwood, Professor of Social Philosophy. ‘Crisis or Cliché? The Problem of Critique in the ‘Grey Zones’ of Delivering Care’; University of Cumbria Lancaster campus, Bowerham Road, Lancaster; 4.30pm-7pm.
  • 15 May – Professor Amanda Taylor-Beswick, Professor of Digital and Social Sciences. University of Cumbria Lancaster campus, Bowerham Road, Lancaster; 4.30pm-7pm.

All lectures are taking place on campus, with a livestream available for online guests.

Volker’s lecture will take place from 4.30pm-7pm on Wednesday 20 March at the university’s Ambleside campus.

Free tickets can be reserved by visiting https://www.cumbria.ac.uk/events/.

The University of Cumbria’s ‘Innovation Conversation’ podcast series, focusing different areas of research carried out by the institution, features an episode with Volker. Each short episode is between nine and 20 minutes in length. Listen to Volker’s podcast at: https://open.spotify.com/episode/62sMmJpYYFes9TVfunyc7U


Notes to editors

  1. Volker is available for interviews please contact news@cumbria.ac.uk or call 01228 279360.
  2. Event information:

Location: Percival Lecture Theatre, Ambleside Campus, University of Cumbria


16:30 – Arrivals, Networking & Refreshments 
16:40 – Lecture Theatre Opens  
17:00 – Introduction from Vice Chancellor, Professor Julie Mennell 
17:15 – Lecture Begins 
18:00 – Audience Q&A 
18:15 – Closing Words from Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Brian Webster-Henderson 
18:25 – Canapes, Refreshments & Networking 
19:00 – Event Close

  1. Biography: https://www.cumbria.ac.uk/study/academic-staff/all-staff-members/volker-deecke.php
  2. Further information about Volker and his research is available at:
  1. More about research at University of Cumbria can be found at: https://www.cumbria.ac.uk/research/
  2. Photographs: Credit - Volker Deecke