As a fellow at the Zoological Society of London, she studies whale health. Because it's nearly impossible to take a blood sample from a whale in the wild, she has to make do with the next best thing: whale snot. But collecting the mix of mucus, water, and gas that spews from a whale's blowhole presents its own unique challenges. Acevedo-Whitehouse used to gather her samples by tying herself to her boat and leaning over a whale's blowhole with a petri dish. It was effective, but far too dangerous. Taking a cue from high-tech toys, Acevedo-Whitehouse now gathers her samples with the help of a radio-controlled model helicopter. A trained model aircraft pilot helps Acevedo-Whitehouse fly the chopper, a Thunder Tiger Raptor 30 V2 that carries several petri dishes into the whale's spout. They can then be taken back to the lab and analyzed for bacteria and viruses. Her report of the unconventional sampling method appears in Animal Conservation (DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-1795.2009.00326.x).
by Bethany Halford |
March 08, 2010