How We Biopsy Sperm Whales

Here is a look at the science we do on board the RV Odyssey in the Gulf of Mexico. This film was made in 2010 with the team from the Wise Laboratory at the University of Southern Maine just after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Alas the weather is not always this nice nor are the whales this abundant but you get to see how we approach sperm whales and collect a small biopsy of skin and blubber for toxicological analysis and the development of cell lines. This is work is conducted under National Marine Fisheries permit number 13545.

As you can see on occasion these animals are as interested in us as we are in them. In many ways what you see here is the tip of the spear. Thousands of hours of preparation and teamwork have gone into getting us into these remarkable situations and it’s rewarding when you see it all come together and our multidisciplinary team work together like clockwork.