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Whale

Environment

Acoustic buoy lets scientists eavesdrop on whales in real-time

Whales inhabiting the waters off of New York and New Jersey can now be heard in real-time thanks to an acoustic monitoring buoy created by a consortium of marine scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) New York Aquarium and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). The hi-tech device allows the group to track – and better study and protect – several species of endangered baleen whales found year-round in the busy waters of the New York Bight.Read More

Medical

Whale protein puts researchers on path to developing synthetic blood

Researchers at Rice University have discovered that a protein found in whale meat may hold the key to developing synthetic blood. The protein, called myoglobin, allows marine mammals to remain submerged at great depths for up to two hours and has an ultra-stable structure that could one day allow for the manufacturing of a blood substitute using bacteria as biofactories.Read More

Drones

Sir Patrick Stewart gets behind effort to collect whale mucus using "Snotbot" drones

Gathering good biological data about whales can be difficult without bugging the big mammals with large planes, boats, tags, sampling darts or even biopsies and lethal study techniques. Instead, the Ocean Alliance wants to send custom drones to collect whale mucus – aka snot – for study and they've enlisted the help of Sir Patrick Stewart for the crowdfunding effort to finance the project.Read More

Marine

Automatic whale detectors keep track of migration

Something as large as a whale might seem an easy thing to keep tabs on, but for for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), tracking migrating pods of gray whales is a major undertaking. In hopes of making binoculars and clipboards a thing of the past, the agency has installed a new generation of whale detectors to keep an electronic eye on the passing leviathans. Read More

Science

Swiss researchers develop new method to produce ambergris alternative

Highly prized by perfume makers, ambergris is a natural material that fetches thousands of dollars per pound. The high price tag is due to the material's rarity, which is a result of its source – the digestive system of sperm whales, from which it is expelled to float around the ocean and has led to it being dubbed "floating gold." While its cost and the endangered status of the sperm whale has caused many perfume manufacturers to turn to synthetic alternatives, the most popular of these is laborious to produce. Now a team of researchers has developed a method to sustainably produce large quantities of an ambergris alternative.Read More

Robotics

Autonomous marine robots used to detect and identify endangered whales

Every year between November and January, endangered North Atlantic right whales are thought to use an area off the coast of Maine known as the Outer Fall as a breeding ground. They are “thought to” because the ocean conditions at that time of year can make it difficult to locate them. Two autonomous marine robots called gliders have now been used as a real time whale-detection system for researchers and to warn boats in the area to slow down to avoid striking the marine mammals.Read More

Science

New system automatically classifies undersea noises in real time

It’s always upsetting to hear about whales beaching themselves, and one of the leading theories on the phenomenon suggests that it may sometimes be due to noise pollution in the oceans. Whales navigate and communicate via sound, so it’s entirely possible that human-introduced noises (such as those produced by ships, oil rigs, or naval navigational beacons) could confuse them, and throw them off course – it has even been posited that noises such as military sonar could deafen or kill them. In an effort to better understand the link between ocean noises and whale well-being, researchers from Spain’s Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) have developed a first-ever system that identifies undersea sounds – both human and cetacean – in real time.Read More

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