Partnership with GMGI and Ocean Alliance Continues

Photo credit: Ocean Alliance

For the past three years, GMGI has been partnering with Ocean Alliance to study whale microbiomes to better understand whale health.

The microbiome is the collection of microorganisms that reside on or within tissues and bodily fluids. It plays a very important role in health and disease. Like humans and other mammals, whales are susceptible to infections in their lungs. Understanding the prevalence and severity of such infections is key to assessing individual and population health — as well as developing informed management plans. Since we can’t bring a whale to the doctor’s office, one way to assess their health is to collect their exhaled breath condensate (or blow) and to look at their lung microbiome.

Using Ocean Alliance’s non-invasive SnotBot® drone, we can safely and harmlessly collect a sample of whale blow. Extracting and sequencing the DNA in this sample provides a preview of the microorganisms inhabiting a whale’s respiratory tract, including those associated with a healthy microbiome and potential pathogens. Merging this with other visual markers of whale health, we are developing a means of remotely assessing the health of our most charismatic marine mammals. GMGI is excited to continue to expand this partnership. We look forward to another season of sampling with Ocean Alliance.