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Whale snot and blubber: Tools used to better understand basic physiology in free ranging cetaceans Cates, Kelly.. University of Alaska-Fairbanks, 8 Jan 2016. Experiment. doi: 10.18258/6419
Obtaining steroid hormone concentrations is a multi-step process. Here is step by step look at what is takes to go from whale to a concentration:
1. Lots and lots of permitting Humpback whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and (currently) under the Endangered Species Act. To get close enough to obtain samples, we need permission from agencies like NOAA.
2. Field work/Sample collection Alaska is a beautiful place, but difficult to work in at best. We must combat unpredictable weather, as well as finicky animals to obtain samples. We collect blubber, whale snot (blow spray), and photo ID's. Many hours of boat time are required to obtain enough samples.
3. Extraction of hormones How do we get hormones out of blubber? Read the methods section of this paper to find out. Needless to say, it takes hours and I have cruised through many audiobooks and podcasts ('Born to Run' is a terrible choice, as far as productivity is concerned ).
4. Measure concentration of hormones We use radioimmunoassay's to measure hormone concentrations. We do this using ELISA kits. Here is a short video on how to use an ELISA kit.
5. Run the statistics Enough said
6. Share with the public! My favorite part
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