BewilderBeasts

#2: Whale Poop FOR SCIENCE and Get Naked for Polar Bears

September 13, 2020 MuttStuff Media Season 1 Episode 2
BewilderBeasts
#2: Whale Poop FOR SCIENCE and Get Naked for Polar Bears
Chapters
00:00:00
Intro
00:01:09
Getting Naked for Polar Bears?
00:03:03
Why Dogs Find Whale Poop For Science
00:06:42
Deaf Frogs Matting Call Goes Unheard
BewilderBeasts
#2: Whale Poop FOR SCIENCE and Get Naked for Polar Bears
Sep 13, 2020 Season 1 Episode 2
MuttStuff Media

On today's episode of Bewilderbeasts we’re going to explore dogs who find whale poop FOR SCIENCE & why you might want need to strip off your clothes for polar bears. 

 If there are topics you would be interested hearing about on the podcast, know of any historical animals who changed the world, animals who help humans, or wacky animals in the news, send them in to:

bewilderbeastspod@gmail.com 

@BewilderedPod on TWITTER

Facebook:
 
https://www.facebook.com/BewilderBeastsPod
 
Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/bewilderbeasts/

About your host:

Melissa McCue-McGrath, CPDT-KA, is a science-based dog trainer outside of Boston, MA, and author of the book, "Considerations for the City Dog" More about Melissa can be found at MelissaMcCueMcGrath.com

*******

Intro Music is “Tiptoe out the back” by Dan Lebowicz
Interstitial music is by MK2
Don’t forget to like, subscribe, review and share with your curious friends.

Today's Information is from:

https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/americas/canada-at-home-with-polar-bears-5363086.html

http://siberiantimes.com/other/others/features/f0273-might-getting-undressed-in-front-of-a-hungry-polar-bear-save-your-life/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/meet-dogs-sniffing-out-whale-poop-science-180958050/

https://www.npr.org/2012/01/07/144752385/dog-trained-as-ultimate-whale-pooper-snooper

https://www.biology.washington.edu/news/news/1504634400/tucker-orca-poop-detection-dog-seattlemet

https://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/adorable-pumpkin-toadlets-cant-actually-hear-their-own-love-songs/ 


 

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

On today's episode of Bewilderbeasts we’re going to explore dogs who find whale poop FOR SCIENCE & why you might want need to strip off your clothes for polar bears. 

 If there are topics you would be interested hearing about on the podcast, know of any historical animals who changed the world, animals who help humans, or wacky animals in the news, send them in to:

bewilderbeastspod@gmail.com 

@BewilderedPod on TWITTER

Facebook:
 
https://www.facebook.com/BewilderBeastsPod
 
Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/bewilderbeasts/

About your host:

Melissa McCue-McGrath, CPDT-KA, is a science-based dog trainer outside of Boston, MA, and author of the book, "Considerations for the City Dog" More about Melissa can be found at MelissaMcCueMcGrath.com

*******

Intro Music is “Tiptoe out the back” by Dan Lebowicz
Interstitial music is by MK2
Don’t forget to like, subscribe, review and share with your curious friends.

Today's Information is from:

https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/americas/canada-at-home-with-polar-bears-5363086.html

http://siberiantimes.com/other/others/features/f0273-might-getting-undressed-in-front-of-a-hungry-polar-bear-save-your-life/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/meet-dogs-sniffing-out-whale-poop-science-180958050/

https://www.npr.org/2012/01/07/144752385/dog-trained-as-ultimate-whale-pooper-snooper

https://www.biology.washington.edu/news/news/1504634400/tucker-orca-poop-detection-dog-seattlemet

https://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/adorable-pumpkin-toadlets-cant-actually-hear-their-own-love-songs/ 


 

 

MUSIC
Hi! Welcome to Bewilderbeasts!  I’m your host, Melissa McCue-McGrath and today on Bewilderbeasts, we’re going to explore Dogs who find whale poop FOR SCIENCE & why you might want need to strip off your clothes for polar bears. Let’s go! 


MUSIC OUT


Hi! Welcome back to Bewilderbeasts! Today’s main topic is one I got to present to kids at the Boston Museum of Science in February - they had the exhibit, “Dogs! A Science Tail!” for a short period just as things were closing down for COVID 19, and it was the highlight of my career to be able to bring my dog in to talk about how dogs use their noses, and how humans have figured out how to train them to help us - like the bees who find landmines we discussed last week. More on why we are teaching dogs to find whale poop in a minute. 

….

BUT FIRST!

Churchill Manitoba has its very own Polar Bear Police - and while I’m imagining polar bears in adorable police outfits, that’s not quite right. They have dedicated police who help the public handle the 200+ polar bears who come through Churchill during their 6 week “polar bear season” - where bears come through, waiting for the ice to freeze on their way to find seals and food. 

Obviously, the people who live here know the hotline for the polar bear police by heart in the same way we Americans teach our children 911 for emergencies, and they also know what to do unlike the adventure tourists who come to Churchill wanting to snap pictures of bears walking through a TOWN. 

So what do you do if a polar bear jumps out at you near the pub and you forget your phone? 

Strip. 

Yup. Strip. I mean, I recommend wearing layers so there isn’t just one bear naked in the street… that said this technique really works. It turns out, if you take your clothes off slowly (whistle) and walk backwards (ALSO slowly), and don’t look the bear in the eye….you should be able to get away, or at least buy some time to get to safety. 

Why does this work? Well, polar bears are really curious! They will stop to sniff each dropped article of clothing. Now, let’s hope the person you are visiting is used to this technique or else a different police force will likely be called out. *RING* “Um, hello? Yeah, there is a naked tourist on my front porch. That’s the third one today!”


BREAK


Let’s get back to why we're all here: Whale Poop


Back in 2008, researchers in Puget Sound off America’s west coast noticed that killer whales were getting pregnant, which was great - but a large percentage of those pregnancies ended in miscarriage - otherwise put - the babies weren’t being born. They died in utero. 

Scientists - as they do - wanted to know “why” - but to find out, they had to find their poop. 

And given that these are WHALES, rather large animals, you’d think finding their scat wouldn’t be that difficult, but it is. As their poop is the consistency (and this is going to get gross - sorry, but you clicked on this!) it’s essentially the consistency of Algae and snot. A few of the articles I read said it was like egg drop soup.

Ew. 


The other complication is that this “liquid-ish gold” to scientists sinks really quickly. So, researcher Sam Wasser decided to bring in the big guns. 

Tucker. A ball-obsessed black lab who, and I’m not making this up,was afraid of water. 
Selecting an 8-year-old aquaphobic dog to help marine researchers might not have been my first choice, but that’s why I’m a pet dog trainer and not a scientist - It turns out that Wasser was RIGHT. 

With Tucker’s drive to play with his tennis ball, he was easily trained to associate the smell of whale poop with getting his ball. And, with Tucker’s powerful nose, he could track it OVER A MILE AWAY. 

Let’s stop for a second. How far is a mile from you? For me? It’s the next town to the left, across a river behind us, and my favorite donut shop to the right. (OMG I’m so hungry)

Tucker has since retired, and there are dozens of dogs who do this work now for researchers. But, these Conservation Canines - C-K9s for short have other important jobs, too. They helped find injured Koala’s after the devastating fires earlier this year in Australia (OMG, that was just this year?!?) Wasser has also been able to help prosecute ivory poachers in Africa, track wolverines in the Rocky Mountain region, and better understand interactions between wolves and caribou. They can find spotted owls, endangered giant armadillos, and some dogs can identify 13 different species’s poo.


Conservation canines are doing amazing work and no doubt we’ll talk about more of them in future episodes. 


But WHY WERE THERE SO MANY WHALE MISCARRIAGES? What did the scooped poop scoop?

They don’t have enough food. An orca’s primary diet is Chinook salmon. And those whales are finding less and less due to overfishing, which is leading to more and more miscarriages. In addition, they can also track how humans affect whales through their poop - for example, they can tell with samples taken just after 4th of July Weekend, when there are more boaters and human activity on the water, the whales have higher levels of stress hormones in their poop.

I wouldn’t expect poop to paint a pretty picture - metaphorically OR literally -  and that’s absolutely the case with the case of the miscarrying whale pods. We humans are smart enough to train a dog who is terrified of water to find whale poo….I hope we’re also smart enough to change our behaviors so we can address this problem that we undoubtedly are contributing to.

Break


There is always an exception that proves the rule. In this case, the rule is evolution. Animals pass on traits, and over time the traits that work benefit an animal and those that don’t ...well….

(Play Taps) 

But in the case of the Pumpkin Toadlet, their mating calls go literally unheard. Sure, many frogs have no ears, but they can at least pick up sound waves - but not the pumpkin toadlet. They are deaf as a doorknob but that doesn’t stop them from calling out to their beloved lady toadlets. Wouldn’t this be a disadvantage? I mean, if a frog was swooning like Barry White, couldn’t it be discovered by predators? 

Turns out, one benefit DID creep through thanks to our ol’ friend Evolution. This teeeeeeeeny tiny toadlet is safety orange - a bright enough color to say, “Hey, I’m poisonous!” - and it’s also not even a decoy. Researchers think this amphibian is so poisonous it has no natural predators…

Maybe there’s something to this evolution thing….? 


So thanks for joining me today on Bewilderbeasts! If there are topics you would be interested hearing about on the podcast, know of any historical animals who changed the world, animals who help humans, or wacky animals in the news, send them in to:

bewilderbeastspod@gmail.com 
Tweet @bewilderedbeasts

BewilderbeastsPod on Facebook and 

@bewilderbeasts on Instagram

I’m Melissa McCue-McGrath with Muttstuff media - 


Now, go get curious!


Music starts


I got today’s information from 
The Independent, The Siberian Times, Smithsonian Mag, NPR, The University of Washington department of Biology, and IFL Science
 Links are in the description of today's episodes

Intro Music is “Tiptoe out the back” by Dan Lebowicz and Interstitial music is by MK2
Sound effects by Andrew Duke
Don’t forget to like, subscribe, review and share with your curious friends. 
Thanks for listening! 

Getting Naked for Polar Bears?
Why Dogs Find Whale Poop For Science
Deaf Frogs Matting Call Goes Unheard