Teacher’s’ questions for Scents of science


Before reading:

  1. Give three examples of how animals, including humans, use their sense of smell.

During reading:

  1. Give two examples of how a marine mammal might smell an airborne scent.
  2. Why would breaching into the wind help a whale catch a scent?
  3. Describe two discoveries described in this story that suggest humpback and bowhead whales are excellent smellers.
  4. What is the purpose of the olfactory bulb?
  5. What do acetone levels indicate about insulin levels in people with diabetes?
  6. Why are scientists looking for an alternate way to measure insulin levels in diabetics?
  7. How would a device that can sniff nitric oxide levels help people with asthma?
  8. Describe how a simple smell test could help diagnose Parkinson’s disease.
  9. What would be the risk of using a smell test to diagnose Parkinson’s?

After reading:

  1. Brainstorm with a partner about an experiment that could show whether humpback whales really do use their sense of smell to find food.
  2. Electronic “noses” could sniff scents that are too dull, dainty or dangerous for human noses. List as many tasks that would be suitable for such devices as you can.


  1. A nice note, soothing music and soft place to sit can all help people feel welcome in new surroundings. Describe a smell or smells that could do the same. List one or more reasons why you think a soothing smell might have that effect.
  2. Should we worry whether human activities interfere with how animals use their sense of smell to find food, avoid danger or communicate? Why or why not?