Sunday, March 14, 2010

Whale snot

Sandwiched between 'How to make a toddlers guitar hero controller' and 'How to make a cardboard horse to hide a paper tiger' (huh?) on the Make Magazine blog is the equally fascinating 'How to collect whale snot using an RC helicopter'.

With a growing interest in wildlife diseases and a desire to non-destructively collect samples from whales scientists have been interested in collecting the exudates from whale blowholes.

At the simplest level, as they explain this involves three steps:
  • Find whale.
  • Hold petri dish over blowhole to intercept spout.
  • Return to lab, enjoy sample.
Of course holding the petri dish over the blowhole is the tricky step. Enter the RC helicopter.

Scientific report here:
"A novel non-invasive tool for disease surveillance of free-ranging whales and its relevance to conservation programs"

I've said this before, but I'll say it again, how can you not be a biologist when you could get to do things like this for a living?

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