Ocean Alliance has been at the forefront of marine mammal research for over 40 years, and now the nonprofit organization has announced its latest contribution to marine life research and innovation.
The organization revealed the Snotbot, a drone that will collect biological data without harassing the animals.
To reveal its latest project, the organization has used the talents of Sir Patrick Stewart in a new Kickstarter campaign. The Snotbot drones will collect physical data from whales, using new tools developed to make it possible to collect such data. Since Stewart is a supporter of the nonprofit and one of its trustees, he lent his time to help explain what exactly Snotbot is.
Created in a partnership between Ocean Alliance and Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, a Snotbot is a custom-built drone designed to hover safely over a whale to collect samples of the blow that is exhaled from the mammal's lungs. The blow, or snot, is a lung lining sample that gives researchers important data such as DNA, pregnancy hormone levels, stress levels, insights into any virus and bacteria present, as well as what toxins have entered the whale's body.
To collect this data, researchers previously chased whales in the wild in motorboats to then shoot them with a dart. The loud sounds of the motorboat put stress on the mammals, which could lead to inaccurate data such as increased stress levels.
Using a noninvasive drone from a safe distance from the whales allows researchers to receive more accurate data without having to even touch the whale.
While the drone can help researchers learn more about whales in their natural environment, it is also more economical since there is less need for expensive vessels and costly research logistics. The drones can travel fast, collect data with less effort, and reduced risks for the whales and researchers. The Snotbots return the samples back to researchers about a half-mile away.
Ocean Alliance has tested the drone already, and plans to use Snotbot to collect data in three locations: Peninsular Valdez Patagonia, off South America; the Sea of Cortez, off the coast of Mexico and the Baja peninsula; and Southeast Alaska / Frederick Sound.
If Stewart supports Snotbot for whale research, then you could too by backing Ocean Alliance in its Kickstarter campaign. The money this project receives will go to funding research to study the southern right whale, sperm whales and humpback whales, along with other marine life, to learn more about them and compare the data with previously collected data to prove the hypothesis that this form of sampling could produce more accurate results.
Those who pledge $250 will receive a signed copy of the Whales IMAX DVD narrated by Stewart.
Thus far, the campaign earned almost $2,000 of its $225,000 goal with less than 40 days to go.
Photo: Ocean Alliance | Kickstarter