Dr Volker Deecke, PhD

  • Associate Professor in Wildlife Conservation
  • Department of Science, Natural Resources and Outdoor Studies
  • Conservation
Dr Volker Deecke, PhD


Born in Germany and raised in Austria, Dr. Deecke started studying biology in Berlin, Germany, but soon transferred to Vancouver, Canada where he completed a masters degree investigating the evolution of vocal dialects in resident (fish-eating) killer whales.

He received his doctorate from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland focused on the vocal behaviour of transient (mammal-eating) killer whales in British Columbia and Alaska and the response of harbour seals to killer whale calls. After post-doctoral research at the University of British Columbia, he returned to the United Kingdom as a Marie-Curie Fellow at St. Andrews before joining the University of Cumbria as a senior lecturer.

Dr. Deecke approaches conservation biology from an animal behaviour background. He is interested in all aspects of sound production and perception in animals, particularly in behavioural and physiological responses to anthropogenic noise.

Qualifications and memberships

Ph.D., Evolutionary Biology, University, St. Andrews, UK (2003)

M.Sc., Zoology, University of British Columbia, Canada (1998)

B.Sc. (Honours), Animal Biology, University of British Columbia, Canada (1994)

Academic and research interests

Conservation of marine mammals

Behavioural aspects of conservation biology

Marine mammal behaviour, cognition, and behavioural ecology

Impact of anthropogenic noise on marine organisms


Deecke V.B. 2012. Tool-use in the brown bear (Ursus arctos). Animal Cognition 15:725-730 link

Deecke V.B., Nykänen M., Foote A.D., Janik V.M. 2011. Vocal behaviour and feeding ecology of killer whales (Orcinus orca) around Shetland, UK. Aquatic Biology 13:79-88 link

Deecke, V.B., Barrett-Lennard, L.G., Spong, P. & Ford, J.K.B. 2010. The structure of stereotyped calls reflects kinship and social affiliation in resident killer whales (Orcinus orca). Naturwissenschaften 97:513-518 link

Deecke, V.B.2006. Studying marine mammal cognition in the wild - a review of four decades of playback experiments. Aquatic Mammals 32:461-482 link

Deecke, V.B., & Janik, V.M. 2006. Automated categorization of bioacoustic signals: Avoiding perceptual pitfalls. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America119:645-653 link

Deecke, V.B., Ford, J.K.B. & Slater, P.J.B. 2005. The vocal behaviour of mammal-eating killer whales (Orcinus orca): Communicating with costly calls. Animal Behaviour 69:395-405 link

Deecke, V.B., Slater, P.J.B. & Ford, J.K.B. 2002.Selective habituation shapes acoustic predator recognition in harbour seals. Nature 420:171-173 link

Deecke, V.B., Ford, J.K.B. & Spong, P. 2000: Dialect change in resident killer whales (Orcinus orca): Implications for vocal learning and cultural transmission. Animal Behaviour 60:619-638 link

Deecke, V.B., Ford, J.K.B. & Spong, P. 1999: Quantifying complex patterns of acoustic variation: use of a neural network to compare killer whale (Orcinus orca) dialects. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 105, 2499-2507 link

Wright, B. M., Ford, J. K. B., Ellis, G. M., Deecke, V. B., Shapiro, A. D., Battaile, B. C., & Trites, A. W. (2017). Fine-scale foraging movements by fish-eating killer whales (Orcinus orca) relate to the vertical distributions and escape responses of salmonid prey (Oncorhynchus spp.). Movement Ecology, 5(1), 3 link

Rice, A., Deecke, V. B., Ford, J. K. B., F., P. J., Oleson, E. M., Hildebrand, J. A., & Širović, A. (2017). Spatial and temporal occurrence of killer whale ecotypes off the outer coast of Washington State, USA. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 572, 255–268 link

Pitman, R. L., Deecke, V. B., Gabriele, C. M., Srinivasan, M., Black, N. A., Denkinger, J., . . . Ternullo, R. L. (2017). Humpback whales interfering when mammal-eating killer whales attack other species: Mobbing behavior and interspecific altruism? Marine Mammal Science, 33(1), 7-58 link

Stansbury, A., Deecke, V. B., Götz, T., & Janik, V. M. (2016). Potential uses of anthropogenic noise as a source of information in animal sensory and communication systems. In A. N. Popper & A. D. Hawkins (Eds.), The Effects of Noise on Aquatic Life II (Vol. 875, pp. 1105-1111). New York: Springer.

Samarra, F. I. P., Deecke, V. B., & Miller, P. J. O. (2016). Low-frequency signals produced by Northeast Atlantic killer whales (Orcinus orca). The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 139(3), 1149-1157 link

Stansbury, A. L., Götz, T., Deecke, V. B., & Janik, V. M. (2015). Grey seals use anthropogenic signals from acoustic tags to locate fish: evidence from a simulated foraging task. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 282(1798), 20141595 link

Samarra, F. I. P., Deecke, V. B., Simonis, A. E., & Miller, P. J. O. (2015). Geographic variation in the time-frequency characteristics of high-frequency whistles produced by killer whales (Orcinus orca). Marine Mammal Science, 31(2), 688–706 link

Filatova, O. A., Samarra, F. I. P., Deecke, V. B., Ford, J. K. B., Miller, P. J. O., & Yurk, H. (2015). Cultural evolution of killer whale calls: Background, mechanisms and consequences. Behaviour, 152, 2001–2038 link

Riesch R., Barrett-Lennard L.G., Ellis G.M., Ford J.K.B., Deecke V.B. 2012. Cultural traditions and the evolution of reproductive isolation: Ecological speciation in killer whales? Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 106, 1-17 link

Filatova, O.A., Deecke, V.B., Ford, J.K.B., Matkin, C.O., Barrett-Lennard, L.G., Guzeev, M.A., Burdin, A.M. & Hoyt, E. 2012. Call diversity in the North Pacific killer whale populations: implications for dialect evolution and population history. Animal Behaviour, 83, 595-603 link

Samarra, F.I.P., Fenell, A., Aoki, K., Deecke, V.B. & Miller, P.J.O. 2012. Persistence of skin marks on killer whales (Orcinus orca) caused by the parasitic sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) in Iceland. Marine Mammal Science 28:395-401 link

Riesch, R. & Deecke, V.B. 2011. Whistle communication in mammal-eating killer whales (Orcinus orca): further evidence for acoustic divergence between ecotypes. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 65:1377-1387 link

Miller, P.J.O., Shapiro, A.D. & Deecke, V.B. 2010. Ecological, not physiological, factors shape the diving behaviour of mammal-eating killer whales in a foraging area. Canadian Journal of Zoology 88:1103-1112 link

Samarra, F.I.P., Deecke, V.B., Vinding, K., Rasmussen, M.H., Swift, R.J. & Miller, P. .O. 2010. Killer whales (Orcinus orca) produce ultrasonic whistles. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 128, EL205-EL210 link

Trites, A.W., Deecke, V.B., Gregr, E.J., Ford J.K.B. & Olesiuk, P.F. 2007. Killer whales, whaling and sequential megafaunal collapse in the North Pacific: a comparative analysis of the dynamics of marine mammals in Alaska and British Columbia following commercial whaling. Marine Mammal Science 23:751-765 link

Trites, A.W., Porter, B.P., Deecke, V.B., Coombs, A.P., Marcotte, M.L. & Rosen, D.A.S. 2006. Behavioral insights into the timing of weaning and the attendance patterns of lactating Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in Alaska during winter, spring and summer. Aquatic Mammals 32:85-97 link

Calambokidis, J., Darling, J.D., Deecke, ., Gearin, P., Gosho, M., Megill, W., Tombach, C.M., Goley, D., Toropova, C., Gisborne, B. 2002: Abundance, range and movements of a feeding aggregation of gray whales from California to southeastern Alaska. Journal of Cetacean Research & Management 4:267-276 link

Barrett-Lennard, L.G., Deecke, V.B., Ford, J.K.B. & Yurk, H. 2001. A sound approach to the study of culture - Response to Rendell & Whitehead. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24:325-326 link


Recent external roles

Research associate at the Vancouver Aquarium