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…
This world, alas, is far from perfect. There are countless things you must keep in mind when collecting the ordure of your study subjects:
1) Not all excrement is cohesive (including your own, gentle reader; see earlier entries), and rarely is it unobstructed on the scattershot journey to the ground. Loose stools and dense subcanopies can combine to horrifying effect. Wear a hat. And please… please… keep your mouth closed when looking up…
2) For those species that swallow seeds whole: the seeds you want to collect in the hurtling ejecta may seem small, but they’re also rather dense, and falling from over 50 meters high in the canopy. Directly at you. Trust me: step aside.
3) If your study subject exhibits latrine behavior (I’m looking at you, Alouatta), I don’t know what you think you’re doing trying to collect their poop just after dawn. I mean, I know it’s when everyone above your head is pooping, and that’s a lot of poop you can collect. But also: that’s a lot of poop. Above your head.
4) You’re not the only one that wants it. Not by a long shot. Prepare for battle.
(special thanks to Emily M. for the dung beetle video; I’ll see you in Vietnam soon, Emily… brush up on your Little Shop and stockpile the Albendazol!)