We read a paper last week in lab group about goose poop. Yes this is still a blog about about bryophytes and I am going to write about poop today.
M. Stech, E. Kolvoort, M. J. J. E. Loonen, K. Vrieling and J. D. Kruijer. 2011. Bryophyte DNA sequences from faeces of an arctic herbivore, barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis). Molecular Ecology Resources 11: 404–408.
In this paper, the goal was to optimize a methodology for extracting bryophyte DNA from the poop/faeces of the barnacle goose. Then they use the DNA to identify the different bryophyte species that the birds had eaten. It is pretty amazing that they were able to identify the mosses from the goose poop using DNA. I think that this sounds much better than digging through the poop trying to identify the bryohytes from small pieces of leaves.
I ran into a bunch of the ornithologists (the folks who study birds) who work in my department and we had a fun discussion about all the possibilities for studying bird poop and the plant contents of the poop.
It made me think about the Science Communication seminar that I have taken and the book Don't be Such a Scientist that we read a couple of years back. One of the ideas in the book is that that there are several ways to appeal to an audience when communicating science. Intellect - Feeling - Humor - Sex. I think that bodily functions, including poop, could be added in too. Poop is definitely a topic for communicating science that appeals to everyone. Ok maybe appeals is the wrong word. But it is definitely a process everyone can relate to, whereas studying mosses can at times be a little esoteric.
I thought that it was a really fun paper and good science too!