Ocean Alliance is coming to the end of its summer expedition in the Gulf of Mexico looking at the effects of the 2010 BP Oil Disaster on Gulf wildlife, particularly sperm whales. Iain Kerr, CEO of Ocean Alliance, is concerned, because of the Gulf oil spill and all that the Mississippi dumps into the Gulf of Mexico after traveling though the heartland of America, that the Gulf sperm whales could be the most polluted in the world. The principle goal behind this campaign is to see if the massive use of dispersants in the Gulf was the right course of action for the wildlife in the Gulf. While the dispersants removed the oil out of sight (and out of mind) there is compelling evidence to suggest that the dispersants moved the oil throughout the food chain and made the oil and dispersant mixture more bioavailable (easier to absorb or ingest by animals).
A rarely answered question is what causes whales stress – typically the bigger the animal the less that stresses it. To try and answer that question Ocean Alliance did preliminary testing of its “Snot Bot” (developed by Olin College), a flying robot that will collect stress hormones, viruses, bacteria and DNA from whale blows.