“Working with large, wild predators is always challenging. With land animals, you might use anesthesia to sedate and then gather your sample, but that’s not possible with Southern Resident Killer Whales.” – SeaDoc Society on YouTube
Most kids dream of following the careers of their favorite movie or TV show characters, whether that means becoming a doctor, astronaut, veterinarian, athlete, superhero, or finding work in some other wild (and sometimes extremely unrealistic) profession. I know when I was in middle school and was actually somewhat coherently considering where I wanted to take my life, I wanted to become a marine biologist (that is, of course, until I took high school chemistry and realized I’d actually have to take real science classes).
Even those, like me, who wanted to study the marine life that fills our ocean, probably failed to understand what the profession entails. As mentioned in the above quote, you can’t just sedate whales to study them. Instead, researchers are forced to learn and understand the animal’s behavior in order to collect their poop.
To be completely honest, if you put fourth grade me in front of a television and played a TV show about a marine biologist who uses a fine mesh net to collect whale poop, I probably would have put a lot more effort into 11th grade chemistry. Screw cartoons about fish and whales getting together, screw documentaries about using submarines to reach the deepest depths of the ocean, and screw cool SCUBA videos. Maybe there’d be a lot more support and money going towards this research if the world really understood just how much of the job is taken up by collecting fecal matter.
Image Credit: SeaDoc Society on YouTube