How scientists are using drones to study the health of endangered whales

Canadian research scientists are spending a month at sea collecting information on the health of the remaining North Atlantic right whales.

Scientists have long suspected the animals may not be that healthy to begin with. Determining how much that might play into their current situation is a big piece missing from the puzzle.

"We really don't know yet," said Andrew Wright, a researcher at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, who studies the impact of shipping noise on right whales.

"That's the big problem. No one has really done this kind of work before."

Wright is one of more than a dozen federal scientists aboard the RV Coriolis II, a specialized research vessel with an on-board laboratory. They are spending a month moving throughout the Gulf of St. Lawrence, gathering information on the endangered marine mammals.

To help determine the population's health, the researchers are measuring stress and sex hormones, and the mammal's body.

"A lot of the focus with the North Atlantic right whales is with the fishing activity and the ships related to their deaths," said Wright. "But the other side of the coin is how much they reproduce."

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