About Us


Photo taken under NOAA permit

Our Story

Killer Whale Tales was founded in 2000, by Jeff Hogan. Our organization is made of a group of like-minded people from many different fields, united by a desire to help educate children about the eco-system we are part of, and to create positive change for the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) of the Salish Sea. 

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Killer Whale tales is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.

A letter from our Founder and Executive Director,

Jeff Hogan:

Killer Whale Tales was born out of my desire to change the fate of Puget Sound’s killer whales.Orcas had been a favorite animal of mine since I was a child. When I moved to Washington State in my twenties, I rekindled my love of these animals, while at the same time learning the harsh reality of our local orca population, which would disappear in my sons lifetime if things remained as they were.

It was quite a blow to find out that just as I was rediscovering these animals, they were slipping away. The culprits for their poor condition were many, ranging from lack of sufficient prey, too many toxins in the food chain, and to the potential effects of human generated noise. It turns out things I was doing around my home were directly affecting these animals and the food chain that they so very much depended on. I needed to make a change and I needed to make sure others knew what I knew, so they to could be part of the solution.

So, I asked myself, “What are you going to do?”

Having already been a teacher for years, a photographer and a trained stage actor to boot, I knew that it had be some sort of presentation. I needed to roll my talents and passions together and somehow get people as into to this thing as I was, and I wanted to work with children. I wanted them to have all the information they could about what was going on so that they could grow up more informed and integrated into their world than I was in mine.

I wanted to give children a sense of what it was like to be both a researcher and a whale. My desire evolved itself into the two most popular breakout sessions we now offer: our orca behavior video exercise and the orca acoustic game.  I also wanted them to know the whales from my perspective and how something that started out as an interest in childhood could manifest itself into a lifetime occupation. This became the foundation for the storytelling component of the program. Finally, I wanted the students to feel like they could do something tangible and become actively involved in the conservation of this now endangered species. I wanted them to be able to go home and share their excitement and translate that sense of ownership into change; hence, our Kids Making a Difference activity was born. They didn’t have to feel guilty or go home and point a finger at anyone, they just needed to make a minor course correction, like turning off a light or watching how much water they used, and they could feel like the world was better because of it.

Jeff Hogan

Who We Are

Executive Director, Board and Advisory Panel

Executive Director

Jeff Hogan

Jeff started Killer Whale Tales in 2000 with the goal of bringing the living science of the field into the classroom. Combining his interests of teaching, photography, science, psychology and theatre, Jeff created a program in which the students came to experience the world as the animals around them do. Jeff brings over thirty one years of education experience and sixteen years of orca research to his position. He is also a research associate for the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and Cascadia Research, as well as a member of the Society for Marine Mammalogy.

Board Chair

Stephanie Schuster

Stephanie received her MBA from Seattle University and has a Bachelor of Arts in Business Leadership with an emphasis in finance and accounting from the University of Puget Sound. She brings certified non-profit management skills, financial oversight, and planning expertise to the table. She is currently in the Project Management Organization for UW Medicine IT Services after serving 5 years as a financial analyst for the Boeing Company. Stephanie grew up in Illinois but always dreamed that she would be able to see Orcas in the wild.  After “adopting” J17 as an elementary school student, it was only a matter of time before she would be working to protect the Killer Whale population to which J17 belongs; the Southern Resident Killer Whales. Stephanie Joined the board in 2012 as Treasurer and became Chair in 2017.

Board Member

Arial Brewer

Arial is a Research Scientist at NOAA’s Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle and specializes in the acoustic ecology of beluga and killer whales. Since 2015, Arial has also been involved in yearly field studies with the southern resident killer whale population. Arial loves spending her time at sea and has been involved in marine mammal surveys off the coasts of Mexico, California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alaska and Hawaii. Arial holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz and has been involved in marine mammal research and conservation since 2007. Aside from being a whale nerd, Arial enjoys hiking, scuba diving, camping and exploring the great PNW with her adventure pup, Henley!

Board Member

Susannah Maher

Susannah received her B.S. in Environmental Science with a marine ecology emphasis in 2018. She is now pursuing a Master’s in Marine Affairs at the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs at the University of Washington. She brings experiences in leadership, communication, and conservation issues from another non-profits and her personal life. As lifelong Washington resident Susannah has had a passion for the outdoors and Puget Sound for her entire life. She loves to spend her time hiking, reading (preferably in a hammock), or scuba diving. She is excited to be able to engage kids in science based learning and conservation.

Board Member

Lou Forristall

Lou has a B.A. and J.D. from the University of Illinois. He migrated to the PNW in pursuit of a Master’s at the University of Washington’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs. His master’s project deals with fisheries bycatch issues in Alaska, and the rest of his studies focus on how humans interact with their environment. Lou developed a passion environmental education working as a teacher and hiking guide, and he is excited to contribute to KWT’s mission. When not studying the sea and its creatures, he’s usually out trying to see them.

Board Member

Kailey Busch

Kailey is a student at the University of Washington pursuing a B.S. in Earth & Space Sciences with a focus on Environment. She spends her free time working on geochemical research at UW, hiking all over the PNW, and listening to local music. As a student herself, she recognizes the importance of education and the crucial role it plays in the conservation of our planet’s natural systems and biodiversity. She has been inspired by her educators all of her life, and she is excited to be working with a program to inspire other young people across the region about such an important issue as saving the Southern Resident Killer Whales.

Board Member

Katie Sieverman

Katie Sieverman is a biologist who escaped her roots as a fifth-generation Texan and migrated to the Pacific Northwest, which she now calls home. After completing her PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California – Berkeley, Katie transitioned from research to science education, joining the Biology department at the University of Washington – Seattle as teaching faculty. Katie is fascinated by all things nature – animals, plants, fungi, microbes, and the beautiful environments they inhabit. She believes in the power of meaningful conversation and storytelling to tackle the ecological and societal challenges we face, and loves asking questions that begin with “why?”. When Katie is not in the classroom, she can be found on her bike, at the climbing gym, planning her next escape to the wilderness, training for mountaineering, dancing in her kitchen while cooking a tasty meal, trying to identify a strange fungus or invertebrate she found, or slowly enjoying a cup of coffee while watching the birds and pondering solutions to all of life’s problems. Katie lives, works, and plays on the ancestral homelands of the Duwamish people.

Board Member

Molly McCormley

Molly McCormley is currently a research scientist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle, focusing on marine mammal physiology. She has experience working on multiple species including killer whales, Steller sea lions, and northern elephant seals. Much of the research Molly has participated in takes her to remote corners of Alaska, with summers spent on uninhabited islands or on vessels in the Bering Sea. She obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and went on to complete a master’s degree at the University of the Pacific focusing on hormonal changes and the potential consequences of acute and repeated stress in northern elephant seals. She loves inspiring others to learn as much as they can about science and nature! Also, her dog, Wyatt, is perfect and she enjoys all sorts of outdoor activities like paddle boarding and hiking.

Board Member

Claire Brandt

Claire holds a MFA in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute and a Bachelor of Arts with an English and American Literature Concentration from Harvard University. She is a strategic designer with a strong illustrative streak. A hybrid, she combines a fine arts background with critical thinking and a collaborative approach to all projects. She is currently a freelance graphic designer. Her clients include Russell Investment, Perkins Coie, Yahoo!, Marshall Strategy, and Chef David Shalleck. Her passion for the ocean and all of its residents brought her to the Killer Whale Tales Board in Spring 2016.

Board Member

Katrina Dunn

Katrina found her love for nature and preserving the environment as a child growing up on Whidbey Island, which translated into her adulthood. She received her B.S. in Environmental Science and Management from Portland State University. She has worked as a research assistant in Astoria, OR studying vegetation dynamics after wetland restoration events, as a deckhand and educator aboard the SoundWaters Schooner in Connecticut teaching environmental education, and as a naturalist guide for the Portland Audubon Society. In addition to working for the environment, Katrina likes hiking and backpacking the PNW, stay-cationing in Seattle, cooking all the food, and art. She hopes to go to graduate school and link her passions for environmental education, art, and citizen science!

Board Member

Mel Upton

Mel has over 5 years of experience educating youth about the Puget Sound and its inhabitants in many different settings. She acts as the Education Coordinator at the Puget Sound Estuarium and enjoys whale watching every summer. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Biology (with a marine emphasis) at Western Washington University in 2014. Since then, she has gained increasingly responsible experience in informal science education at multiple zoos, aquariums and children’s museums in Washington State. Her informal science education expertise also stems from completing an “Informal Learning in Museums” Professional Certificate from the Oregon State University. In her free time, Mel enjoys reading, doing crafts, exploring the outdoors, cuddling her cat (Luna), and eating cheesy macaroni.

Pod squad of influence: Advisory Panel

Immediate Past Board Chair

Eric Hess

Eric has held a lifelong interest in the outdoors and environmental stewardship. He is currently in Marketing at REI has held previous roles in marketing and communications in the nonprofit sector. Eric joined the board in 2009 and took a leave of absence in 2018 to focus on his growing family.

Former Board Member

Candice Emmons

Candice holds a master’s degree in marine affairs from the University of Washington. She is currently a part of the marine mammal program at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle and is working on a variety of projects including winter habitat use, acoustics, and foraging ecology of Southern Resident killer whales.

Former Board Member

Nina Hadley

Nina Hadley
Former Board Member
Nina holds a B.S. in marine science and a master’s degree in marine affairs from the University of Washington.  She works for  the Nature Conservancy as the regional learning manager for the Asia Pacific region. An avid traveler, diver and rock climber Nina has made her home on a patch of moss in Seattle for nearly eight years and loves the simple quality of life that the Pacific Northwest affords. She has been doing the backstroke with the KWT pod since 2002.

Program Advisor

Deoborah Giles

Dr. Giles earned her Master’s degree in Biogeography from the University of California Davis in 2007.  Beginning with a pilot study in 2006, she has been collecting location and behavior data on the Southern Resident Killer Whales for her PhD dissertation.  Giles’ plans for the future include teaching students how to conduct field research relating to habitat conservation and restoration and spending as much time in the presence of killer whales as possible

Program Partners

Below are a list of partners and what they offer in conjunction with our program.  We are working with these groups to increase access to our programs, to maintain our programs timeliness and credibility, and to increasing our financial support and geographic scope.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Aids in funding our program through a government contract as well as providing contact information for interested schools. NOAA staff members are also working on a “Springer Returns Home”  curriculum packet for interested teachers and will be allowing us to use these teaching materials to supplement our after visit activity programs. This relationship with NOAA is formalized with a contract renewed on an annual basis.

The Seattle Aquarium:

Continues to promote/advertise KWT’s curriculum and provide a visit to the Seattle Aquarium as a package in the Seattle Aquarium Educator Guide (which is distributed to schools throughout the region and on the Aquarium website). They also assist us by registering and scheduling KWT visits to schools and Aquarium visits for those same KWT participants up to 2000 students; and provide booking service for KWT alone for an additional 3000 students. In addition they provide bus transportation and Aquarium admission funding for eligible students and their teachers and chaperones.  They also provide all participating students with Puget Sound orca whale identification trading cards.  http://www.seattleaquarium.org
Below are a list of partners and what they offer in conjunction with our program.  We are working with these groups to increase access to our programs, to maintain our programs timeliness and credibility, and to increasing our financial support and geographic scope.

The Center for Whale Research

Offers our students an opportunity to help identify the individual members of the Southern Resident Killer Whale community and to help the children to determine and define the orcas’ critical habitat.

Orca Network

Assists by distributing our curriculum packets and activities for classroom teachers as well as copies of their “Orcas in Our Midst” booklet.

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5623 46th Ave SW
Seattle WA 98136

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