From whale snot to urchin treats for rescued sea otters, all the way up to wild sea lion rescues and unlimited CT scans for aquatic animals, there is truly something for every ocean lover in the Ocean Wise virtual-gift store this holiday season ( Rather than actually put whale snot into Christmas stockings, gift-givers can send loved ones an e-card with information about how their gift will help Ocean Wise research and conservation programs this holiday season.

For example, scientists have been collecting mucus from humpback whales by flying a small drone through their blows, or exhalations. The blow samples are being used to better understand the community of microorganisms that inhabit the respiratory tracts of apparently healthy whales. Every “snot” sample collected is a step towards understanding whale diseases.

The hexacopter drone on a mission for snot — and more data on humpback whales.

“This is a time of year when people are being asked for a lot,” said Jeremy Douglas, vice-president of development at Ocean Wise. “We want to make donating fun, part of holiday gift-giving, and directly connected to where the money goes.”

At $1 million, the most expensive item in the store is a gift of unlimited CT scans of aquatic animals, or rather a CT scanner in a custom-built trailer. “It’s a very big ask, and it’s been on our wish list for a while,” said Vancouver Aquarium head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena. “A CT scanner would not only improve care at the Aquarium and Rescue Centre, but it would allow us to embark on sophisticated studies of animal physiology that will help us conserve wild species.” The CT will be used to treat animals at the Vancouver Aquarium, an Ocean Wise initiative, and will also travel to patients at its offsite Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, and the Open Water Research Station in Port Moody.

The Ocean Wise Gifts Virtual Store currently offers 20 items, but more will be added throughout the holiday season. The current list includes:

  • An urchin for a rescued otter ($12)
  • Night lights for corals ($8)
  • A prosthetic eye for a fish ($10)
  • A bottle of formula for a rescued sea lion pup ($12)
  • Updated profile photo for a killer whale ($16)
  • Whale snot testing ($22)
  • Eavesdropping on belugas ($23)
  • Fund a whale research boat for a day ($124)

You can also pick up a real-life gift, like the Killer Whale Aquadopt Kit, at the Vancouver Aquarium’s gift shop.

For ocean-loving Kris Kringles who would prefer to deliver a gift “IRL,” Ocean Wise also offers gifts that make a difference by supporting the conservation of marine life, reducing carbon emissions and plastic use, and encouraging sustainable seafood harvesting practices. The Vancouver Aquarium Gift Shop is a one-stop shop to find sustainable gifts such as recycled glass ornaments and kitchenware, sustainable seafood cookbooks, and Aquadopt Kits (with a certificate of adoption, fact booklet, collector card, plush toy, and tax receipt). Or, give the gift of yearlong wonder and curiosity by purchasing a membership to the Vancouver Aquarium.

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