Actor Sir Patrick Stewart who you may know from Hollywood blockbusters such as the X-Men franchise (Professor Charles Xavier) or from various Star Trek movies and TV shows (Captain Jean-Luc Picard) has contributed with money of his own as well as promotional material to a Kickstarter campaign.
The project in question has been started by a group of Ocean Alliance scientists who want to raise enough money to use drone technology in order to acquire uninvasive whale snot samples for their study.
The Ocean Alliance (Massachusetts) is well known as an organization that prides itself on collecting samples from marine creatures without disrupting their normal behavior. They are being help with their Kickstarter campaign and drone development by the Olin College of Engineering.
The campaign is titled “Snotbot: Pushing the Frontiers of Whale Research With Drones”, and currently has 383 backers who’ve collectively raised $24,820. The goal is to reach $225,000 and there are only 30 days left for people to donate.
If the scientists manage to raise enough money, they will be developing drones that fly straight into the spray clouds ejected by a whale’s blowhole. The drones will then collect mucus as well as other organic material that the researchers can use to study a whale’s health
Captain Iain Kerr, Ocean Alliance scientists and long-time friend of actor Patrick Stewart, gave a statement in a promotional video saying that the research team wants to find ways to gather biological data from whales without harassing them. The drones, dubbed “Snot Bots” would help the researchers do just that.
He went on to inform that snot samples “are a treasure trove of data”. They allow scientists to “sequence DNA, measure stress and pregnancy hormone levels, determine virus and bacteria loads, and run a host of other non-invasive experiments”.
The current methods of collecting data leave a lot to be desired. The whales are chased with motor boats and hit with biopsy darts, an approach that causes a great deal of stress to the animals. But the Snot Bots would serve as a tool that helps scientists collect samples from the distance, without harassing the animals.
A humorous promotional video that illustrates the scenario stars Sir Patrick Stewart relaxing at home. He steps out in his yard and Captain Iain Kerr along with a fellow researcher start shooting a biopsy dart at the actor. Captain Kerr makes a sorry face, but explains that he’s just collecting data.
Sir Stewart then goes to read the paper, but he suddenly hears a load horn blowing in his ear. He is visibly stressed, however Captain Kerr explains that he’s simply measuring his stress levels.
In the next scene, Sir Stewart blows his nose and the researchers come to collect the dirty handkerchief before he has time to throw it away. Fed up with the situation, the actor demands some answer. Stewart and Kerr then go outside the house and the latter explains how the drone technology would help researchers collect data without harassing the animals.
The video ends with Sir Patrick Stewart asking people to support Captain Iain Kerr and Ocean Alliance in developing “better, more effective, more efficient, innovative research” tools.
But Stewart and Kerr also gave a statement explaining that if all doctors knew about people came from chasing us around the room with an air horn and biopsy darts, our test results would not be very accurate.
Image Source: radiotimes.com