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This world, alas, is far from perfect.
November 21, 2012 5:29 PM   Subscribe

Things I Learned as a Field Biologist #65: "Collecting the fecal matter of your study subject is an art form, and not nearly as simple as one might think. In a perfect world, you would look through your binoculars into the canopy and see the prized excrement emerge freshly from the posterior of the exact animal you’re hoping to sample. This ample and cohesive bolus will fall magically, directly, to the ground at your feet, making for easy and immediate retrieval…"
posted by ChuraChura (27 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
"But also: that’s a lot of poop. Above your head."
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:33 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh god, my first and only serious " what I want to be when I grow up" that I took with any seriousness was feild biologist. I only changed tracks cause iof economic issues, I wanted to spend half the time in the lab and half the time pinning rare beetles to tape and living in a tent.

This is very ...eye opening.
posted by The Whelk at 5:37 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, ahhhhhhhh!
posted by The Whelk at 5:38 PM on November 21, 2012


Hmm. I wonder if, were one to imagine that trees could grow to an unlimited height, how tall a hypothetical rainforest you would need for there to be a constant uninterrupted Biblical Poop Deluge at the forest floor.
posted by XMLicious at 5:40 PM on November 21, 2012


Over the last decade I've probably seen hundreds of hawks poop in flight. I try not to think about the ones I don't see.
posted by rtha at 5:42 PM on November 21, 2012


XMLicious: I don't know for rainforests, but there *is* a constant deluge of poop (and bits of dead animals) on the floor of the ocean. It's the main source of nourishment down there. See marine snow.
posted by Scientist at 5:54 PM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ah. Well in that case, I wonder how tall a rainforest you would need in a vacuum such that there would be a deluge of poop accelerated to relativistic speeds at the forest floor.
posted by XMLicious at 5:57 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the trees were of unlimited height the canopy would still be where photosynthesis happens, and thus where the action happens. Trees would just evolve ever taller, leafless trunks in an endless race to crowd each other out. I'm not sure you'd necessarily get a higher concentration of poopers per square foot of ground, though the poops would moving much faster when they hit.
posted by contraption at 5:59 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


My favorite quote (from another evopropiniquitous post:
When you are feeling so alone… so… alone… and hear a quiet sound above your head, and look up to see your favorite woolly monkey silently masturbating. You held him in your hands mere months ago when you radiocollared him… his fur was so soft, his scrotal tuft so adorably fluffy and regal… and now here is… all alone, but making the most of it… he doesn’t need anyone… YOU don’t need anyone…
posted by Scientist at 6:02 PM on November 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Although I don't know this guy, his story is my story! Right down to the joy over monkey testicles!
posted by ChuraChura at 6:07 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, biologists and poop.

A decade ago, a college I worked at had a very senior bio prof with an extensive scat collection. His pride in the stuff was palpable. Squirrels, bears, mountain lions, coyotes... it was all lovingly collected in the field and prepared by microwaving and drying the various specimens.

The science department got a new building, and the bio department rated a large display case right up front. The case got the entire collection, meticulously labelled and organized, with special lighting and everything. Campus administration made some pointed suggestions that were, of course, totally ignored by faculty.

Campus tours started just pointing at the building from the outside and moving on.
posted by underflow at 6:09 PM on November 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also, don't use the microwave in the break room in that building.
posted by XMLicious at 6:13 PM on November 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


My marine biologist friend collects blue whale poop, but I've no idea how. She says that even when triple-bagged it still has the power to empty a room in seconds.
posted by anadem at 6:26 PM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


My wife used to be a field biologist. She has some interesting stories, but it didn't seem to pay very well. I got to go on a hike with one of her field biologist friends once, though. We brought live mice and fed them to wild spotted owls. It turns out the females don't leave the nest while they're incubating eggs, so the easiest way to find nesting sites is to give the males mice and see which tree they fly back to with them. That was pretty cool. They'll take the mice right out of your hand.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 6:45 PM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


His pride in the stuff was palpable.

I work with some biologists, and they get excited about the grossest things. It's always charming as long as you make sure to wash your hands afterwards.
posted by Forktine at 6:50 PM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


As a certified Bachelor of Arts who wrote a term paper about the existential ramifications of the defecatory act I am merely saying that if anyone would care to angel invest in an Interdisciplinary Journal of Fecal Perspectives I would gladly volunteer as Head of Integrating the Study of Feces into the Modern Psychosocial Milieu and its Implications for the Practice of the Radical Shit *long, wild-eyed breath* and also maintain its Excel spreadsheet. (I once authored a paper to the same effect) I hope I am not being too forward.

Sample abstract: Defecating with a tablet computer in hand: the worker is shit into the bowl with relevant comments from Dance.

I have been pitching this for 8 years.
posted by passerby at 6:56 PM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


wow, and i sometimes feel lucky that i can hit the toilet when i pee.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 7:04 PM on November 21, 2012


So if you are traveling to an area of the world where malaria is almost a certainty, and your doctor prescribes you mefloquine (commercially known as Lariam), think twice.

And ask for doxycycline instead.


This. Lariam will make you so insane that you will almost not realize that you would much rather just fucking HAVE MALARIA than keep on taking it.
posted by trip and a half at 7:19 PM on November 21, 2012


This. Lariam will make you so insane that you will almost not realize that you would much rather just fucking HAVE MALARIA than keep on taking it.

In my case, it gave me the best and most vivid drug-addled dreams of my entire life. Fantastic stuff, would use recreationally, A+++.
posted by Forktine at 7:22 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Over the last decade I've probably seen hundreds of hawks poop in flight. I try not to think about the ones I don't see.

I've learned to never watch a bird fly directly overhead. The hard way.
posted by srboisvert at 7:29 PM on November 21, 2012


It's always charming as long as you make sure to wash your hands afterwards.

And that, boys and girls, is one of the major reasons I'm an environmental chemist rather than a biologist.
posted by bonehead at 7:29 PM on November 21, 2012


I guess this is the right thread to mention Ballistic Defecation.
posted by dhruva at 7:49 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tangential drug anecdata: mefloquine did nothing to me (well, except possibly preventing malaria), but doxycycline gave me a wicked case of pill esophagitis.
posted by maryrussell at 8:01 PM on November 21, 2012


You think biologists like poo? Ask an archaeologist how much they love finding poo. That's a whole new level of dedication. Someone I know was mentioned on QI because of this one. I myself have spent an entire field season cleaning out a cess pit. Ask me how I know that 2000 year old wee still smells of wee and 2000 year old poo can be ... reanimated.
posted by Eumachia L F at 12:24 AM on November 22, 2012


Things I learned as a field bioloist #323 - You may have cutaneous leishmaniasis.

If you get a potentially disfiguring and possibly fatal tropical disease like cutaneous leishmaniasis, there are a few things you should remember:

1) Nothing you put on it will help… you need a doctor. Now.

2) And I mean right now. SEE A DOCTOR NOW. If you value the smooth integrity of the skin around the area where your sore has appeared, and they can appear anywhere, DO NOT travel back to whatever country you came from because you think they have ‘better medical care’. In this case, they do not. The doctors near your field site will diagnose you right away. They’ve seen it. They know what to do. The doctors in your home country will be persnickety about your ‘self-diagnosing’. They know absolutely nothing about tropical diseases. And so they will take weeks sending those samples to the CDC to be identified, which they have to do before they can administer treatment...:


Um, good to know.
posted by shoesietart at 2:59 AM on November 22, 2012


This seems a relevant place to mention the story from a few years back of the PhD student who had his entire collection of rare lizard poo chucked in the bin while he was out in the field.
posted by biffa at 4:00 AM on November 22, 2012


In my case, it gave me the best and most vivid drug-addled dreams of my entire life. Fantastic stuff, would use recreationally, A+++.

Friend once described the worst night of her life as having paranoid delusions while ripped on malaria medication while also having violent stomach cramps all alone ....in a cave.
posted by The Whelk at 8:33 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


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