Hexacopter Used to Study Whales’ Breath

October 19, 2015

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. endangered /ɛnˈdeɪn dʒərd/ (adj.) – referring to any animal with extremely low population
Example: The researchers are finding ways to protect endangered animals.

2. invasive /ɪnˈveɪ sɪv/ (adj.) – referring to medical procedures that involve cutting open the body or having an instrument enter the body
Example: She put a stop to the invasive testing of animals.

3. insight /ˈɪnˌsaɪt/ (n.) – an understanding about something
Example: The research gave them new insight on how to better take care of bears.

4. skeptical /ˈskɛp tɪ kəl/ (adj.) – being doubtful about something
Example: I am very skeptical about the study’s results.

5. discomfort /dɪsˈkʌm fərt/ (n.) – an uncomfortable feeling
Example: Some animals do not immediately show their feeling of discomfort.


Read the text below.
Scientists can now use drones to examine a whale’s health.

Researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have started using a type of drone called a hexacopter to examine the endangered humpback whales in the Stellwagen [stel-WAH-gen] Bank National Marine Sanctuary in the United States. With this technology, scientists can examine a whale’s health without having to use invasive measures.

The hexacopter has two functions depending on where it is. At about 125 to 150 feet above the ocean's surface, it takes pictures of the whale’s body, which will later be used to measure the whale’s size and to see if it has any skin lesions. The second function, at around 10 feet above the ocean’s surface, is to analyze the whale’s breath. The drone captures samples of the whale’s breath coming out of its blowhole. 

The scientists will then compare the breath samples from Stellwagen to those that will be taken from whales living near the less polluted Antarctic Peninsula. Michael Moore of the WHOI Marine Mammal Centre said that this study will provide new insights on how a habitat affects whales’ health.

While WHOI researchers are optimistic about drone usage for animals, researchers from the University of Minnesota are skeptical. They said that while drones have been useful in gathering data about wildlife, there have been very few studies on how animals feel about them. These researchers from Minnesota monitored the heart rate and movement of black bears while having drones fly above them.

They found that even though the bears were standing still, their heart rate increased whenever the drones flew above them. This suggests that although animals may not necessarily show discomfort, they might be stressed by certain forms of observation.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you think using drones is a good way to observe and learn about animals? Why or why not?
·         Why do you think it is important for scientists to understand more about the health of animals?

Discussion B

·         What kind of animals would you like to learn more about and why?
·         Do you think technology can help in keeping animals safe and healthy? Why or why not?

October 19, 2015