Morton, Alexandra (Hubbard) 1957-
MORTON, Alexandra (Hubbard) 1957-
PERSONAL: Born July 13, 1957, in Sharon, CT; daughter of Earl Wade (a fine artist) and Barbara Suzanne (Marx) Hubbard; married Robin Alan Morton (a film maker; deceased), September 11, 1986; children: Jarret Adair, Clio Salmond Rose Nelson. Education: American University, B.Sc. (magna cum laude), 1977.
CAREER: Researcher of marine animals. Raincoast Research Society (originally named Lore Quest), British Columbia, Canada, director and cofounder, 1981—; Broughton Archipelago Stewardship Alliance, cofounder, 1999—. Volunteerat Human/Dolphin Society, 1977-78; worked at Naval Oceans Systems Center, 1978-79.
AWARDS, HONORS: Sheila Egoff Prize, Canadian Children's Book Centre, 1992, for Siwiti: A Whale Story.
Siwiti: A Whale's Story (for children), Orca Books (Custer, WA), 1993.
In the Company of Whales: From the Diary of a Whale Watcher (for children), Orca Books (Custer, WA), 1993.
(With Billy Proctor) Heart of the Raincoast: A Life Story (biography), Horsdal & Schubart (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 1998.
Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us (essays), Ballantine (New York, NY), 2002.
Author of scientific studies published in scientific journals and in Behavioral Biology of Killer Whales, edited by B. C. Kirkevold and J. S. Lockhard, Alan R. Liss (New York, NY), 1986; Report of the International Whaling Commission, 1990; and Intimate Nature, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1998. Contributor of articles to popular periodicals, including Smithsonian, California Wild, Canadian Geographic, International Wildlife, Equinox, and BBC Wildlife. Author of regular column "From the Archipelago" for Wavelength magazine, 1997—. Siwiti was translated into French.
SIDELIGHTS: As a child, Alexandra Morton dreamed of studying animals, and after earning a bachelor of science degree in 1977, she worked for Dr. Sam Ridgeway at the Naval Oceans Systems Center, studying the sound production of dolphins. Later, while conducting a study on a captive killer whale pair, Morton decided that she must study orcas in the wild in order to truly learn anything important about them because she believed they were affected when held in captivity. Thus in 1980, she moved to British Columbia to be near the killer whales she wanted to study. The following year, she married Canadian film maker Robin Morton, and together they founded the non-profit charitable society Lore Quest, which was later renamed Raincoast Research. Although Morton did not follow the typical career path of a scientist, that is, earning graduate degrees and seeking grant funding, she established herself a prominent place among orca whale researchers. She has published the results of her acoustics and behavioral research in scientific journals and general readership periodicals. She also penned two books about ocras for children and wrote a scientific memoirs for adults.
With her 1993 offering Siwiti: A Whale's Story, Morton introduces young readers to orcas. Using her own photographs of orcas above and under the water, the author describes their socialization of the newborn Siwiti, from birth through the first year. "This book is a literary and visual feast for readers of all ages," summed up J. L. K. Latshaw in Canadian Children's Literature. While in Siwiti, Morton anthropomorphized the orcas, she gave them a nonfiction treatment in another children's title In the Company of Whales, also published that same year. In it, she describes her scientific research on killer whales, giving readers a "captivatingly intimate view," according to Stephanie Zvirin of Booklist. Books in Canada reviewer Rhea Tregebov also praised the work, calling it "an absolute gem" because with her "clear and accessible" prose, Morton gives readers a glimpse of the working life of a biologist.
Nearly a decade later, Morton published Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us. In it, according to Library Journal's Judith B. Barnett, the author writes "eloquently," describing the orcas and, in the process, the path that led her to become one of the most prominent killer whale researchers in the world. She tells of her early work under controversial dolphin researcher Dr. John Lilly and of her quarter-century of experience with wild whales and dolphins, particularly of her language and social habits research among pods of orcas off the coast of British Columbia. "Her description of the fateful moment when she knew she had come upon her life's work, and true home, will send shivers down your spine" predicted Canadian Geographic writer Moira Farr, who added, "Listening to Whales is gripping and beautifully written. Morton evokes the lush web of life on the British Columbia coast vividly and with passion." Not only is it written with passion, according to Booklist's Nancy Bent, Morton "gives the reader a clear view of how she conducts her research," and a Kirkus Reviews contributor similarly praised Morton for writing about her personal life with "unembroidered ease … which is extremely powerful when telling the story of the death of her husband" in a diving accident in 1986. Another enthusiast of the work was Jeff Fair, who described it as "a passionate memoir by a true field biologist" in his Natural History review. In Publishers Weekly a reviewer described Listening to Whales as "an engaging tale of a woman's commitment to science and a life well lived."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 1994, Stephanie Zvirin, review of In the Company of Whales: From the Diary of a Whale Watcher, p. 1001; May 15, 2002, Nancy Bent, review of Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us, pp. 1561-1562.
Books in Canada, March, 1994, Rhea Tregebov, review of In the Company of Whales, p. 48.
Canadian Children's Literature, Volume 65, 1992, J. L. K. Latshaw, review of Sawiti: A Whale's Story, pp. 113-114.
Canadian Geographic, September-October, 2002, Moira Farr, review of Listening to Whales, pp. 109-110.
Canadian Materials, September, 1991, Fred Leicester, review of Siwiti, p. 226.
International Wildlife, September-October, 1987, Alexandra Morton and Robin Morton, "Into the World of Orcas," pp. 12-17.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2002, review of Listening to Whales, p. 389.
Library Journal, March 1, 2002, review of Listening to Whales, p. S21; May 1, 2002, Judith B. Barnett, review of Listening to Whales, p. 129.
Natural History, May, 2002, Jeff Fair, review of Listening to Whales, pp. 91-92.
New Scientist, September 21, 2002, "Call of the Wild" (interview), pp. 46-49.
Parenting, December-January, 1992, Misha Berson, "Against the Tide," p. 36.
Publishers Weekly, April 8, 2002, review of Listening to Whales, p. 213.
Raincoast Research Society Web site,http://www.raincoastresearch.org/ (February 12, 2003), "Alexandra Morton."*