Is Snot Really the Answer? – New SnotBot Looks to Monitor Whales Without Harm

Global warming has a huge effect on the Earth. More than 70% of Earth is the ocean, full of diverse species of animals and plant life that are becoming extinct. Whales as a species are dying off, and as of right now there are not many ways that we can monitor their health and how their lifestyles are without causing them stress. Except for the recent innovation of technology by Ian Kerr and the Ocean Alliance that allows humans to collect data on the wellbeing of the species without causing them harm. With the drone affectionately called the SnotBot scientists can now monitor different whales with newfound precision and accuracy.

The robot is a drone that can be remotely controlled to study the different whale specimens. On the SnotBot, there are five to six Petri dishes to collect whale snot! When the whales blow through their blowholes they release snot which will be caught by the bot and later examined. Mr. Kerr admits that although the SnotBot is the best way to examine whales, he has had trouble getting snot the first try due to the wind.

Before the SnotBot, the only observations of whales that could be made from a boat had to be 15 feet away. Sometimes there would be a platform near the water to get a better view of the specimen. However, there was no way to monitor how healthy the whales were, or to get pictures of the whales themselves from above. With the invention of the SnotBot, all of this has changed.

Mr. Kerr said there were many issues in getting the SnotBot up and running. First, he had to get funds to build the drones in case there are accidents when using them, to buy permits for the drones, airfare for all the different countries they would have to travel to examine the whales and to actually examine the specimens. Luckily one of his colleagues knew Patrick Stewart, who filmed a commercial to promote the safe examination of whales(if your interested here is the video). Another problem with inventing the robot was figuring out how to collect the snot. At first, the scientists from the Ocean Alliance, the program behind SnotBot, tried to collect the snot with sponges. A problem with this method was that they weren’t able to collect the snot after “catching” it. Eventually, they developed the system of using Petri dishes in order to consistently collect snot.

Now Ian Kerr and Ocean Alliance are working to develop different drones to monitor different things about the whales. For example, the newest version of the SnotBot will be able to measure the heat of a whale which they can use to check internal temperatures. This information will let them see if species are sick or need attention that they would not be able to administer before.

Overall, the SnotBot has opened a whole new path of innovation, and can hopefully be changed to help study other endangered species. This invention will change the study of whales drastically and help provide information on how global warming will affect different animals in our world.

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