Spray-catching drones test whale stress over rising tourism

Environmentalists in Iceland are working on an innovative (though somewhat sticky) research project from the skies. Crews in sailboats dispatch drones above breeching whales to catch snot discharged from their blowholes to learn if rising tourism levels are stressing them out.

Spray-catching drones help measure whale stress amid rising tourist outings

Environmental group Whale Wise has undertaken the effort in Skjálfandi Bay, on the north side of Iceland, to see if the growing number of boats taking tourists on whale watching trips is having adverse effects on the mammals. To do so, members wait for one of the creatures to rise, then fly their DJI craft overhead. Eventually, the whale’s breathing process forces a geyser of air, water, and various sorts of matter upwards, where the drone swoops in with petri dishes to capture the mucky mist. Analyses of that will permit researchers to determine the sea titan’s altering stress levels.

Christened with the…