Saving Seattle’s Southern Resident Orcas – A Comm Lead Project


In the waters between Seattle and Vancouver B.C., the southern resident orcas are struggling to survive. Summer 2018 saw the death a three-year-old and newborn calf, who was then carried for 17 days by her mother, immediately spurred the Pacific Northwest into action. Some of the major issues orcas face are pollution, habitat degradation, boat traffic and noise, and declining salmon populations [2].

While we mourned for our orcas, many people feel it’s not urgent, it doesn’t affect them, or they can’t make a difference.


For conservation to be successful, we need to focus on conservation locally and personally [1]. Researched showed to improve community engagement in local conservation efforts, like the southern residents, we need to focus on experiential experiences [3]. This campaign created an experiential marketing strategy to encourage community engagement in orca conservation.

Engaging communities can also change people’s behaviors. Research showed social norms influenced people’s decision making more than learning new information [1]. Using an experiential marketing effectively engages the community by creating an immersive experience people feel personally involved in and connected with others in the community [3].


Experiential Marketing Campaign:

To reach the audience of over half a million Seattle residents, we partnered with the Center for Whale Research to create an underwater experience in the Westlake Station in downtown Seattle. We provided daily commuters with a shareable, lasting experience, designed to immerse them in the orca’s habitat.

The experience took daily commuters through the southern resident’s underwater habitat using projectors of the southern residents. Commuters would hear the orca’s unique dialect throughout the station. To demonstrate the impact of humans on orcas, we set up different loops of footage and remastered video. Onlookers watched the orcas catch Chinook salmon, a preferred food, until the fish ran out. When a bus or train approached the station, the orcas swam away to show how the higher concentration and proximity of boats interfere with orcas using their echolocation to hunt prey. We also created an interactive trashcan to project items people threw away and how their trash ends up in the orca’s habitat.

Orca Experience

Selfie Station:

To encourage people to connect with their community and donate, we create a selfie station that takes donations for a selfie photo. We branded the selfie station with the Center for Whales custom props, backdrops, and frames to create a unique photo. Each photo included the Center for Whales social media handles and hashtags to inspire people to follow the organization and share or tag their photo, which increased their social media presence.

People either sent an email, text, or immediately printed their photos to keep. All digital photos were uploaded to an online album where people could retrieve their photos later as well. This also helped the organization to collect people’s information to add to their data. People could also opt-in to post their photo live outside Westlake Station on a digital billboard to show how many people were supporting the orcas.

Selfie StationWestlake Center


We created posters to encouraged people to contact their state representatives to support initiatives such as removing four dams on the Lower Snake River and create a budget for Chinook salmon recovery. Commuters scanned the QR code and were taken to a webpage on the Center of Whale Research website where they could call, text, or email their message. We provided a strategic message for people to use or customize.

Orca Poster 1

Side note

This is a fictional project for Comm Lead and is not affiliated with the Center for Whale Research. However, you should still donate to the Center for Whale Research and spread awareness for orca research.


  1. Linden, Sander van der, Edward Maibach, and Anthony Leiserowitz. “Improving Public Engagement With Climate Change: Five ‘Best Practice’ Insights From Psychological Science.” Perspectives on Psychological Science 10, no. 6 (November 2015): 758–63. doi:10.1177/1745691615598516.
  2. Mapes, Lynda V. “Orcas Thrive in a Land to the North. Why Are Puget Sound’s Dying?” The Seattle Times, The Seattle Times Company, 11 Nov. 2018,
  3. Marc J. Stern, Nicole M. Ardoin & Robert B. Powell (2017) Exploring the Effectiveness of Outreach Strategies in Conservation Projects: The Case of the Audubon Toyota TogetherGreen Program, Society & Natural Resources,30:1, 95-111, DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2016.1164266
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