PORTLAND — A whale research team from the University of Southern Maine and the Ocean Alliance is due to reach the southern tip of Florida later this week.

The group’s goal is to take tissue samples to determine whales’ exposure to toxins in the oil-tainted waters of the Gulf of Mexico. They’ll also be performing cell cultures and exposing the cells to toxins found in the Gulf to determine the level it takes to cause damage.

The Ocean Alliance’s laboratory-equipped sailboat Odyssey is making its way down the Eastern Seaboard. It’s due to arrive in Fort Lauderdale by Friday.