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Town Hall Seattle: Science Series

The Science series presents cutting-edge research about biology, physics, chemistry, ecology, geology, astronomy, and more. These events appeal to many different levels of expertise, from grade school students to career scientists. With a range of relevant applications, including medicine, the environment, and technology, this series expands our thinking and our possibilities.

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Highlighting big ideas from both recent and soon-to-come events. A rolling Town Hall timeline, with you at the center. Every two weeks, hosts Steve Scher and Jini Palmer rewind through the recent past and fast-forward to the near future, catching you up on events you may have missed and offering a glimpse into the weeks ahead.

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Town Hall is a gathering place where ideas are planted and movements grow. It’s where we come together as a community to listen and be heard—to ask and answer the big questions facing our city and our world. Annually, we present hundreds of artists and scholars, and collaborate with more than 150 grassroots groups in our self-produced programs. Rooted in the belief that we all deserve a voice, our programming reflects—and inspires—our region's best impulses: creativity, empathy, and innovation. With our podcast series, we take one more step towards making our programming accessible to all. 

Jun 18, 2018

Since the release of the documentary Blackfish in 2013, millions around the world have focused on the plight of the orca, the most profitable and controversial display animal in history. Yet until now, no historical account has explained how we came to care about killer whales in the first place. In celebration of Orca Awareness Month, environmental professor Jason M. Colby drew on interviews, official records, private archives, and his own family history, to tell the exhilarating and heartbreaking story of how the public came to love the ocean’s greatest predator.

Colby dove into oceanic history to reveal the origins of the orca. Historically reviled as dangerous pests, killer whales were dying by the hundreds, even thousands, by the 1950s—the victims of whalers, fishermen, and even the US military. But that all changed in 1965, when Seattle entrepreneur Ted Griffin became the first person to swim and perform with a captive killer whale. Colby traced the trajectory of the orca’s image, revealing factors that led the public to embrace killer whales as charismatic and friendly. He explored encounters with captive orcas reshaped regional values in the Pacific Northwest, and helped drive environmental activism like Greenpeace’s anti-whaling campaigns. Join Colby for a definitive history of the feared and despised “killer whale,” and how its transformation into the beloved regional icon of the “orca” has impacted our relationship with the ocean and its creatures.

Jason M. Colby is associate professor of environmental and international history at the University of Victoria. Born in Victoria, British Columbia, and raised in the Seattle area, he worked as a commercial fisherman in Alaska and Washington State. He is the author of The Business of Empire: United Fruit, Race, and US Expansion in Central America.

Recorded live at University Lutheran Church by Town Hall Seattle on Tuesday, June 5, 2018.