[MARMAM] Virological Sampling of Inaccessible Wildlife with Drones

Vanessa Pirotta (HDR) vanessa.pirotta at hdr.mq.edu.au
Mon Jun 4 23:08:38 PDT 2018

Dear MARMAM colleagues,
My co-authors and I are pleased to announce the publication of the following manuscript now available online:

Virological Sampling of Inaccessible Wildlife with Drones

Geoghegan, J.L.; Pirotta, V.; Harvey, E.; Smith, A.; Buchmann, J.P.; Ostrowski, M.; Eden, J.-S.; Harcourt, R.; Holmes, E.C. Virological Sampling of Inaccessible Wildlife with Drones. Viruses 2018, 10, 300.


There is growing interest in characterizing the viromes of diverse mammalian species, particularly in the context of disease emergence. However, little is known about virome diversity in aquatic mammals, in part due to difficulties in sampling. We characterized the virome of the exhaled breath (or blow) of the Eastern Australian humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). To achieve an unbiased survey of virome diversity, a meta-transcriptomic analysis was performed on 19 pooled whale blow samples collected via a purpose-built Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV, or drone) approximately 3 km off the coast of Sydney, Australia during the 2017 winter annual northward migration from Antarctica to northern Australia. To our knowledge, this is the first time that UAVs have been used to sample viruses. Despite the relatively small number of animals surveyed in this initial study, we identified six novel virus species from five viral families. This work demonstrates the potential of UAVs in studies of virus disease, diversity, and evolution.

Keywords: whale;  virome; drone;  mammalian host;  virosphere

Publication available here:


Best regards,

Vanessa Pirotta

Vanessa Pirotta | PhD Candidate
Marine Predator Research Group
Department of Biological Sciences
Faculty of Science and Engineering
Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia
Twitter: @VanessaPirotta
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