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Patrick Stewart, Drones, and Whale Snot: The Kickstarter of Your Dreams

Jul 26, 2015 05:41 PM EDT

Ok.. so maybe not your dreams specifically, but this one is pretty darn cool. Scientists with Ocean Alliance recently dreamed up a way to take essential samples from whales without the gentle behemoths ever noticing, and Sir Patrick Stewart, of all people, is very excited to see this work come to fruition.

"Were really looking for ways to collect biological data [from whales] without harassing the animals, and here comes our drones, which we affectionately call 'Snot Bots,'" Captain Iain Kerr, an Ocean Alliance researcher and long-time friend of Steward recently explained to the legendary actor in a promotional video.

"Blow samples, or snot, are a treasure trove of data," the researcher added. "With them, we can sequence DNA, measure stress and pregnancy hormone levels, determine virus and bacteria loads, and run a host of other non-invasive experiments." (Scroll to read on...)

(Photo : Ocean Alliance)

According to Stewart and Kerr, contemporary research approaches currently involve what seems like a lot of unnecessary harassment - something that can lead to potentially inaccurate data.

"Imagine if everything your doctor knew about your health came from chasing you around the room with a large needle while blowing an air-horn," the project's team said. "The chart would say something like, 'elevated stress levels, prone to shrieking.' It's inaccurate."

Kerr hopes that with Snot Bot, whales won't even know that researchers are there. The drone was reportedly designed in a collaboration with Olin College of Engineering to quietly hover above a surfacing whale, patiently waiting to collect whale snot expelled from a blow hole with what can only be described as a large and absorbent tissue.

Thanks to the drone's minimal presence, and the fact that it can reach researchers waiting a significant distance away, the hope is that Snot Bot subjects will stay at ease, unperturbed by the sound of boat engines - a proven stressor for whales.

Stewart, a long time supporter of Ocean Alliance, even volunteered to be subjected to some of these common whale stressors first-hand to show you how much they can disrupt someone's day. Now he's asking for your help:

"I'm asking you to support my good friend Captain Ian Kirk and Ocean Alliance in their quest for better, more effective, more efficient, innovative research that will give us answers to some of the mysteries about the ocean and particularly, whales."

[ Credit: Ocean Alliance / Film by Stephanie Cornell ]

You can check out the Kickstarter for yourself, and even donate for some nifty swag here.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

 - follow Brian on Twitter @BS_ButNoBS


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