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URI student studying 'whale snot' for health clues

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SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) — A graduate student at the University of Rhode Island is hoping his study of what he calls "whale snot" will yield important health information about the beluga whale population.

Doctoral student Justin Richard, of North Stonington, Conn., wants to learn whether a whale's gender, reproductive status and other information can be determined from the cells and hormones they exhale.

Scientists normally collect such information by firing a biopsy dart into the animal. He says the hope is to find non-invasive ways to learn about belugas.

Richard will first collect exhale samples from beluga whales at Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, where he worked for nearly 10 years as a whale trainer. He also plans to spend time in Arctic Canada during the next two summers to try to collect more samples.

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