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Researchers use a trained dog to sniff for orca scat in Washington state.  (AP)

Researchers use a trained dog to sniff for orca scat in Washington state. (AP)

Dogs help the researchers find whale feces. Examining orca waste reveals information about the whales' health. (AP)

Dogs help the researchers find whale feces. Examining orca waste reveals information about the whales' health. (AP)

Tags that give off a satellite signal are another way that scientists keep track of orca populations. (AP)

Tags that give off a satellite signal are another way that scientists keep track of orca populations. (AP)

A female orca & her two babies. Researchers want to make sure they’re healthy. (AP)

A female orca & her two babies. Researchers want to make sure they’re healthy. (AP)

Orcas swim together, seen from a research ship. (AP)

Orcas swim together, seen from a research ship. (AP)

Always More to Learn

Posted: September 1, 2017

It might surprise us to learn that savage-seeming sharks get eaten by friendly-faced whales. But after studying God’s world, we start to expect surprises like this. He is so creative that there will always be more to learn about His designs.

Of course, that learning doesn’t always come easy. Imagine you are standing on the deck of a ship watching a pod of orcas swim by. You are a scientist who wants to know all about animals. How do they live? What do they need to live well? How can we take good care of them and their environment? Those are big, complex questions. How would you go about answering them?

With most creatures in the wild, you could capture one animal and take it back to your lab. You could collect blood samples. You could take a good look at its skin and body. Then you could release it back into the wild and continue to study its behavior. Whales are way too big for that!

Marine biologists are fascinated by sea creatures like whales. So they think of creative ways to learn about them. They take lots of photographs of whales. From these, they get a good idea of how whales are built and how much blubber they have. Do the whales have healthy skin? Have they been injured by boats or tangled in nets? Biologists also shoot the whales with non-harmful darts. The darts pick up tiny amounts of skin and blubber. Those give scientists information about a whale’s genetics. Some biologists even take scat-sniffing dogs aboard boats to find whale poo. These samples contain hormones that show a whale’s gender and age.