Whale Research Takes Flight

With breath samples, scientists can analyze whales’ DNA, hormones, and bacteria for things such as family history, stress levels, and health.

Hexacopter Hovers over Humpback Whale
The hexacopter flies through a whale spout to collect samples. (Photo by Michael Moore, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Acquired under National Marine Fisheries Service Permit 17355-01 and NOAA Class G flight authorization 2015-ESA-4-NOAA)

SWFSC's Marine Mammal and Turtle Division researchers, John Durban and Holly Fearnbach, along with partners from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, have successfully demonstrated a new non-invasive tool to obtain hard-to-get health measurements of large endangered whales in the wild. Using a small remote-controlled hexacopter, scientists for the first time collected both breath samples from the whales’ spouts combined with aerial photos of their body condition. Read more about this exciting development from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution new release. The previous link is a link to non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer

For more information, contact: John.Durban@noaa.gov.

Learn more:  SWFSC's Cetacean Health and Life History Program