Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fido, the research assistant

Endangered species and dogs.  As Maria sang in the Sound of Music, these are a few of my favorite things!  I just heard a fascinating report on NPR on the ways in which dogs are helping with orca research in Puget Sound.  It turns out, as with many animals, the feces of orcas are helpful in telling scientists about the animals' health and environment.  I remember when volunteering at the National Zoo's Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, scientists often used animal urine, such as Eld's deer urine, and sometimes feces, to provide valuable information on animal health issues such as fertility cycles.

So how's Fido helping the orca scientists?  By sniffing out the orca poop in the water!  Check out the NPR report.  Now if I could just train my dogs to pick up their own poop in the yard......

Trainer Liz Seely looks on as Tucker takes to the bow and sniffs the waves.


  1. If they can gather so much info from orca poop why can't we do the same with human poop? I've never read about any efforts in that regard except checking for occult blood.

  2. Good question. I think we get a lot of the same type of info from blood tests for humans, but since orcas aren't easy to get blood from, I think they go with the poop.