Born in Germany and raised in Austria, Prof. Deecke started studying biology in Berlin, Germany, but soon transferred to Vancouver, Canada where he completed a Master's 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.

Prof. 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


Tennessen, J.B., Holt, M.M., Wright, B.M., Hanson, M.B., Emmons, C.K., Giles, D.A., Hogan, J.T., Thornton, S.J. and Deecke, V.B. (2023). ‘Divergent foraging strategies between populations of sympatric matrilineal killer whales’. Behavioral Ecology, 34 (3), pp.373–386. doi: 10.1093/beheco/arad002

Selbmann, A., Deecke, V.B., Filatova, O.A., Fedutin, I.D., Miller, P.J.O., Simon, M., Bowles, A.E., Lyrholm, T., Lacey, C., Magnúsdóttir, E.E., Maunder, W., Wensveen, P.J., Svavarsson, J. and Samarra, F.I.P. (2023). ‘Call type repertoire of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in Iceland and its variation across regions’. Marine Mammal Science, 39 (4), pp.1136–1160. doi: 10.1111/mms.13039

Findlay-Robinson, R., Deecke, V.B., Weatherall, A. and Hill, D. (2023). ‘Effects of climate change on life-history traits in hibernating mammals’. Mammal Review, 53, pp.84-98. doi: 10.1111/mam.12308

Wright, B. M., Deecke, V. B., Ellis, G. M., Trites, A. W. and Ford, J. K. B. (2021). ‘Behavioral context of echolocation and prey-handling sounds produced by killer whales (Orcinus orca) during pursuit and capture of Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.)’. Marine Mammal Science, 37 (4), pp.1428-1453. doi: 10.1111/mms.12836

Selbmann, A., Deecke, V.B., Fedutin, I.D., Filatova, O.A., Miller, P.J.O., Svavarsson, J. and Samarra, F. I. P. (2021). ‘A comparison of Northeast Atlantic killer whale (Orcinus orca) stereotyped call repertoires’. Marine Mammal Science, 37 (1), pp.268-289. doi: 10.1111/mms.12750

Narazaki, T., Isojunno, S., Nowacek, D.P., Swift, R., Friedlaender, A.S., Ramp, C., Smout, S., Aoki, K., Deecke, V.B., Sato, K. and Miller, P.J.O. (2018). ‘Body density of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in feeding aggregations estimated from hydrodynamic gliding performance’. PLoS One, 13 (7), p.e0200287. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200287

Elmeligi, S., Convery, I., Deecke, V.B. and Nevin, O.T. (2018). ‘Virtual collecting: Camera-trapping and the assembly of population data in twenty-first-century biology’. In MacGregor, A. (ed.): Naturalists in the Field: Collecting, Recording and Preserving the Natural World from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-First Century. pp.863-890.Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill. doi: 10.1163/9789004323841_030

Deecke, V.B. (2018). ‘Dolphins and whales – Taking cognitive research out of the tanks and into the wild’. In Bueno-Guerra, N. & Amici, F. (eds.)” Field and Laboratory Methods in Animal Cognition: A Comparative Guide. pp.146-176.Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/9781108333191.009

Wright, B.M., Ford, J.K.B., Ellis, G.M., Deecke, V.B., Shapiro, A.D., Battaile, B. C. and 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), p.e3. doi: 10.1186/s40462-017-0094-0

Samarra, F.I.P., Tavares, S.B., Béesau, J., Deecke, V.B., Fennell, A., Miller, P.J.O., Pétursson, H., Sigurjónsson, J. and Víkingsson, G.A. (2017). ‘Movements and site fidelity of killer whales (Orcinus orca) relative to seasonal and long-term shifts in herring (Clupea harengus) distribution’. Marine Biology, 164 (8), pp.159. doi: 10.1007/s00227-017-3187-9

Rice, A., Deecke, V.B., Ford, J.K.B., Pilkington, J.F., Oleson, E.M., Hildebrand, J.A. and Širović, A. (2017). ‘Spatial and temporal occurrence of killer whale ecotypes off the outer coast of Washington State, USA’. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 572, pp.255–268. doi: 10.3354/meps12158

Pitman, R.L., Deecke, V.B., Gabriele, C.M., Srinivasan, M., Black, N.A., Denkinger, J., Durban, J.W., Mathews, E.A., Matkin, D.R., Neilson, J.L., Schulman-Janiger, A., Shearwater, D., Stap, P. and 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), pp.7-58 doi: 10.1111/mms.12343

Stansbury, A., Deecke, V.B., Götz, T. and Janik, V. M. (2016). Potential uses of anthropogenic noise as a source of information in animal sensory and communication systems. In Popper, A.N. & Hawkins, A.D. (eds.): The Effects of Noise on Aquatic Life II. pp.1105-1111.New York: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-2981-8_137

Samarra, F.I.P., Deecke, V.B. and Miller, P.J.O. (2016). ‘Low-frequency signals produced by Northeast Atlantic killer whales (Orcinus orca)’. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 139 (3), pp.1149-1157. doi: 10.1121/1.4943555

Stansbury, A.L., Götz, T., Deecke, V.B. and 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), pp.20141595. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.1595

Samarra, F.I.P., Deecke, V.B., Simonis, A.E. and 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), pp.688–706. doi: 10.1111/mms.12195

Filatova, O.A., Samarra, F.I.P., Deecke, V.B., Ford, J.K.B., Miller, P.J.O. and Yurk, H. (2015). ‘Cultural evolution of killer whale calls: Background, mechanisms and consequences’. Behaviour, 152, pp.2001–2038. doi: 10.1163/1568539X-00003317

Samarra, F.I.P., Fenell, A., Aoki, K., Deecke, V.B. and 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 (2), pp.395–401. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2011.00486.x

Riesch, R., Barrett-Lennard, L.G., Ellis, G.M., Ford, J.K.B. and Deecke, V.B. (2012). ‘Cultural traditions and the evolution of reproductive isolation: Ecological speciation in killer whales?’. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 106, pp.1–17. doi: 10.1111/j.1095-8312.2012.01872.x

Filatova, O.A., Deecke, V.B., Ford, J.K.B., Matkin, C.O., Barrett-Lennard, L.G., Guzeev, M.A., Burdin, A.M. and Hoyt, E. (2012). ‘Call diversity in the North Pacific killer whale populations: implications for dialect evolution and population history’. Animal Behaviour, 83 (3), pp.595-603. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.12.013

Deecke, V.B. (2012). ‘Tool-use in the brown bear (Ursus arctos)’. Animal Cognition, 15 (4), pp.725-730. doi: 10.1007/s10071-012-0475-0

Riesch, R. and 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 (7), pp.1377–1387. doi: 10.1007/s00265-011-1148-8

Deecke, V.B., Nykänen, M., Foote, A.D. and Janik, V.M. (2011). ‘Vocal behaviour and feeding ecology of killer whales (Orcinus orca) around Shetland, UK’. Aquatic Biology, 13, pp.79–88. doi: 10.3354/ab00353

Samarra, F.I.P., Deecke, V.B., Vinding, K., Rasmussen, M.H., Swift, R.J. and Miller, P.J.O. (2010). ‘Killer whales (Orcinus orca) produce ultrasonic whistles’. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 128 (5), pp.EL205-EL210. doi: 10.1121/1.3462235

Miller, P.J.O., Shapiro, A.D. and Deecke, V.B. (2010). ‘The diving behaviour of mammal-eating killer whales (Orcinus orca): Variations with ecological not physiological factors’. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 88 (11), pp.1103–1112. doi: 10.1139/Z10-080

Deecke, V.B., Barrett-Lennard, L.G., Spong, P. and Ford, J.K.B. (2010). ‘The structure of stereotyped calls reflects kinship and social affiliation in resident killer whales (Orcinus orca)’. Naturwissenschaften, 97, pp.513–518. doi: 10.1007/s00114-010-0657-z

Trites, A.W., Deecke, V.B., Gregr, E.J., Ford, J.K.B. and 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 (4), pp.751–765. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2006.00076.x

Trites, A.W., Porter, B.P., Deecke, V.B., Coombs, A.P., Marcotte, M.L. and Rosen, D.A.S. (2006). ‘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 (1), pp.85-97. doi: 10.1578/AM.32.1.2006.85

Deecke, V.B. and Janik, V.M. (2006). ‘Automated categorization of bioacoustic signals: Avoiding perceptual pitfalls’. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 119 (1), pp.645-653. doi: 10.1121/1.2139067

Deecke, V.B. (2006). ‘Studying marine mammal cognition in the wild - a review of four decades of playback experiments’. Aquatic Mammals, 32 (4), pp.461-482. doi: 10.1578/AM.32.4.2006.461

Deecke, V.B., Ford, J.K.B. and Slater, P.J.B. (2005). ‘The vocal behaviour of mammal-eating killer whales (Orcinus orca): Communicating with costly calls’. Animal Behaviour, 69 (2), pp.395-405. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2004.04.014

Deecke, V.B., Slater, P.J.B. and Ford, J.K.B. (2002). ‘Selective habituation shapes acoustic predator recognition in harbour seals’. Nature, 420 (6912), pp.171-173. doi: 10.1038/nature01030

Calambokidis, J., Darling, J. D., Deecke, V.B., Gearin, P., Gosho, M., Megill, W., Tombach, C. M., Goley, P. D., Toropova, C. and Gisborne, B. (2002). ‘Abundance, range and movements of a feeding aggregation of gray whales from California to southeastern Alaska’. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management, 4 (3), pp.267-276. doi: 10.47536/jcrm.v4i3.839

Barrett-Lennard, L.G., Deecke, V.B., Yurk, H. and Ford, J.K.B. (2001). ‘A sound approach to the study of culture - Reply to Rendell & Whitehead’. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24 (2), pp.325-326. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X01233962

Deecke, V.B., Ford, J.K.B. and Spong, P. (2000). ‘Dialect change in resident killer whales (Orcinus orca): Implications for vocal learning and cultural transmission’. Animal Behaviour, 60 (5), pp.629-638. doi: 10.1006/anbe.2000.1454

Deecke, V.B., Ford, J.K.B. and Spong, P. (1999). ‘Quantifying complex patterns of bioacoustic variation: Use of a neural network to compare killer whale (Orcinus orca) dialects’. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 105 (4), pp.2499-2507. doi: 10.1121/1.426853

Recent external roles

Board of Trustees, Cumbria Wildlife Trust