Sea Turtles Wear Poop-Collecting Swimsuits For Research

How do researchers collect fecal samples from endangered sea turtles? They throw swimsuits and diapers on them and wait until they poop, obviously.

When faced with a poop-collecting predicament during a Ph.D. research project, two researchers with the University of Queensland’s School of Biological Sciences used old rash guards purchased at a thrift store to fashion custom-made swimsuits for the loggerhead turtles.

Owen Coffee, a Ph.D. student, was researching how to better protect the endangered species by understanding their feeding habits and locating their foraging areas.

At first, he and Carmen da Silva, a university researcher, kept the six wild loggerhead sea turtles in seawater tanks at UQ’s Moreton Bay Research Station and waited until they defecated, but “it was challenging to collect the entire fecal sample once it dispersed into the water,” Coffee said in a press release.

The swimsuits, Coffee told HuffPost, were designed to act as a harness for an existing device known as a “nappy” (Aussie slang for diaper), which fits over the turtle’s tail and collects fecal samples.

The “nappy,” which is shaped like a cloth funnel, was attached to a hole at the tail-end of the customized swimsuit and held in place with Velcro.

“To our great surprise, it worked perfectly,” Kathy Townsend, the research station’s education coordinator, told UQ News.

“The suits were easy to put on, comfortable for the sea turtles to wear, looked great, and Coffee was able to collect the entire fecal sample.”

The researchers will use the fecal samples to identify what the turtles were eating in the hours before they were captured by the researchers, Coffee explained to HuffPost.

Then, using a method called stable isotope analysis, his team will determine what the loggerhead turtles were feeding on over a longer period of time, in —> Read More