Having a whale of a time researching

Griffith University researchers are using humpback whales as “canaries in thecoalmine” to tell them what’s happening in Antarctica.

A team lead byAssociate Professor Susan Bengtson Nash, of Griffith’s Southern Ocean Persistent Organic PollutantsProgram (SOPOPP), has beenmonitoring the East coast of Australia migrating population for the past 10 years.

Professor Bengston Nash said they used the whales asa sentinel species to indicate what is happening in the Antarctic sea ice system.

“In Moreton Bay we’ve been working for 10 years now looking at the diet, the hormones, the enzyme activation in the animals, the contaminant burdens and alsothe relative fat reserves of the animals,” she said.

“Wehave also developed the first humpback whale cell line as a tool for toxicological investigations. Weessentially we have a little whale in a petrie dish.

“We’ve discovered that by monitoring the whales’ fatnessand dietwe can tell whetherit’s a good yearor a poor yearin Antarctica.”

SOPOPP also has a project in Moreton Bay assessing therisk ofship strikestohumpback whales.

Researchers take their samples of whale blubber.