05/15/2017 05:31 EDT

Nova Scotia Blue Whale's Carcass Could Hold Valuable Answers, Say Scientists

"It's always a pretty gruelling, exhausting task."

Scientists in Nova Scotia are undergoing the messy and slow work of opening up a blue whale's carcass to discover how it died.

On May 2, the juvenile blue whale washed up on shore in East Berlin, not far from Liverpool, N.S. Scientists have been hard at work since Friday collecting samples and skeletal remains to determine the 20-metre-long mammal's cause of death.

Tonya Wimmer, the director of the Marine Animal Response Society, told CBC News the investigation into the whale's death could hold important answers.

"It's only been because people have looked at animals that have died that we've really even started to identify how often they're threatened by different things — whether it's shipping, whether it's fishing, pollutants, whatever," Wimmer said.

Researchers work away at a blue whale necropsy on a beach near East Berlin, N.S. on Saturday. (Photo: Marine Animal Response Society/Facebook)

The Queens County Advance reported that researchers and students from a nearby veterinary college were covered in blubber as they methodically worked away at the necropsy, with one student even asking a journalist to put up her hair as her hands were drenched in blood.

“It’s always a pretty gruelling, exhausting task ... but we’re hoping to learn as much as we can,” Andrew Reid, with the Marine Animal Response Society, told the paper.

The Government of Canada estimates there are less than 250 adult blue whales in the northwest Atlantic. Blue whales can live to be 80-years-old, and after they reach sexual maturity they reproduce every two to three years.

Wimmer says the whale was just one of a few calves in the region, and as a female she could have gone on to mother even more members of the endangered species.

“When you lose a female, you’re not just losing her,” Wimmer told The Chronicle Herald. “You’re losing every possible baby she could have had in her lifetime.”

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