I'm a biologist with interests in genetics, conservation, ecology, invasive species, and wildlife management.
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The great Poo Hunt 2014
For the last couple of weeks I've been in Tasmania, helping with fieldwork for The Great Poo Hunt - a large scale predator scat survey of the east of Tasmania. We've been collecting all scats that might belong to the larger mammalian predators, from selected survey sites. These will be DNA tested to identify the predator and some of the prey species whose remains are within each scat. Hopefully there will be lots of devil and quoll scats, signs of a healthy ecosystem! But I suspect there will also be a good proportion of feral cat scats and some dog scats. We really hope that we don't find any evidence of fox DNA in the scats - a fox population here would be disastrous for Tasmanian wildlife.
It's been hard work, with mud, wind, rain, heat, cold, leeches, biting ants and a heavy backpack (did someone say that science was glamorous...? ...probably not...) but I've had a wonderful time and got to see some parts of the country I would never normally get to. One thing I have really enjoyed is finding evidence of devils in the wild. Devil numbers have declined dramatically in recent years as a result of devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) but they are still hanging on across Tasmania and a lot of dedicated people are fighting to help them survive. I photographed the devils above at the Tasmanian Devil Park in Taranna. It has been years since I saw one in the wild (caveat - I have not spent an awful lot of time in Tasmania lately to go looking!). The scats are some that we came across at a devil latrine near Huonville. You can see they are full of fur and interesting pieces of bone and other prey remains. Devils tend to leave their scats in a favourite place and multiple devils may use the same site as a communal latrine / message board. The first latrine my team came across was in a beautiful spot on a ridgeline overlooking the Huon valley. We all agreed, the devils have it right, they like to poo with a view!
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Being somewhat excited by animal droppings myself I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I found a racing pigeon band in a devil scat at Cockle Creek some time back.
Thanks Alex - the racing pigeon sounds like a tasty meal for that devil!
Loved reading this thhank you
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