After graduating with degrees in biology and genetics from Stanford and Cornell Universities, Michael Ford began work at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in 1995, serving as Director of the Conservation Biology Division since 2003. In his twenty-year career at NWFSC, Mike has worked on a wide variety of projects related to marine conservation and published over forty papers and numerous scientific reports. Mike was initially hired to study interactions between hatchery and wild salmon, and in 2002 he published an influential paper that subsequently became the foundation for many of the hatchery reform efforts in the Pacific Northwest. His work was also important for providing the framework the National Marine Fisheries Service uses to develop recovery goals for threatened salmon.
Mike starting studying killer whales in 2004, as a member of the status review team that recommended the southern resident killer whale population be protected under the Endangered Species Act. In 2006, Mike began to oversee the NWFSC’s marine mammal team, which conducts research to understand how to best recover the southern resident population. Mike’s own research has focused on using genetics to understand the breeding structure of the population, and on understanding the whales’ diet. The research team as a whole has focused on a wide variety of issues, including how the whales respond to disturbance from boats and noise, their seasonal distribution and habitat use, contaminant levels, and response to varying salmon abundance. More information on NWFSC’s killer whale research program is available on the NWFSC website: http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/research/divisions/cb/index.cfm.