Musk Turtle Beer Koozies and Other Household Items for Science |


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A non-toxic toilet plunger solves the problem of snapping turtles.
Eric Manscher

Imagine being a biologist. Do you imagine someone wearing a starched lab coat in a clean, quiet office? The reality is that many biologists squeeze insights from the much more chaotic lives they spend in the field. And that could mean an axle breaks, equipment malfunctions, or you have to MacGyver your way out of the situation to get the data you need.

Take Cody D. Godwin, a doctoral candidate at Southeastern Louisiana University. As part of their research on razor-stricken musk turtles, Godwin and his colleagues had to take tissue samples from the webs of the turtles' feet. Of course, the turtles wanted to avoid this, so they bit the researchers with all their might. Realizing there had to be a better way to contain the pesky beast, Godwin looked around the kitchen until a beer koozie caught his eye.

After all, Godwin says, “Herpetologists drink a lot of beer.” “When I put it on, the animal calmed down and stopped biting. It worked like magic,” he says.he continued to publish his findings in a diary Herpetology Review.

Godwin is not the first herpetologist to announce a new method of restraining reptiles.Another group showed that a regular old toilet plunger is perfect for unsnapping snapping turtles—wIt's no small miracle. “I've been bitten by every species we've studied except for the alligator tortoise. If you get bitten by one of those larger turtles, it just destroys what it bites,” said Turtle Survival. says Eric Manscher, director of the Alliance North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group.

One of Munscher's most memorable biting experiences was when a 30-pound Florida softshell turtle tore a chunk out of his palm. ”“That’s the price you pay when you work with wild animals,” he says lightly.

Nor are they the first researchers to repurpose common household items in the name of weird science. Justin HudsonA master's student at the University of Manitoba, he modified a painting pole. Collect beluga whale snot. aaron pomerantzA doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley, he likes to use camel hair paintbrushes to work with small, crushable insects.and an entomologist at North Carolina State University. matt bertone He says there's no better tool for removing large amounts of cow dung (which he uses to feed dung beetle traps) than the old ice cream scoop his grandmother gave him. Hmm!

Discover unlikely household items repurposed by creative scientists in the name of research.

creature comforts

The infamous Turtle Beer Koozie Harness.

The uncomfortable truth about fawn research

(Janine Frisgl)

The best way to study deer populations is to capture as many deer as possible with radio collars. Radio collars track location data of ungulates. However, due to the camouflage of these beautiful bambi spots, it is very difficult to spot the fawn within hours of entering this world. solution? A smart little device known as a VIT, or vaginal implant transmitter.

VIT is basically the equivalent of pop-up thermometers that are placed on Thanksgiving turkeys in the field. A VIT is a tracking device in the form of a small IUD that is inserted through the vaginal canal and nestles against a pregnant doe's cervix. When a doe gives birth, VIT is expelled from the birth canal to the ground. By measuring rapid temperature changes, VIT begins to alert scientists that fawns have been born, and they come running with their collars on.

As you can imagine, VIT insertion can be quite a difficult process, says Janine Fleegle, a wildlife biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission who has assisted with VIT insertion the past two fawning seasons. says. However, no special medical equipment is required to do it properly. Purchased at the local hardware store, all he needs is a rudimentary plunger made from two lengths of PVC pipe and a bottle of personal lubricant. Oh, and sedatives for the doe that make the process easier for everyone involved.

Overall, VIT helps scientists reliably find and tag fawns that may die or disappear before they are discovered. However, as Fleegle attests, this method is inherently unpleasant and expensive, making it unpopular among biologists. However, there are times when data has instrumental value.

How much does a Babe Newt Rookie card cost?

Salamanders prefer to huddle under a rotting log rather than in the palm of a researcher's hand. That's why these wriggly, slippery little bugs tend to wiggle out of herpetologists' hands and tear off their tails if they think they can escape. These trends make it quite difficult for scientists to study amphibians without causing undue stress or limb loss.

One Solution, University of Alabama PhD Candidate Nick Caruso discovered using the plastic sleeves normally used to protect baseball cards. I found these sleeves to be perfect as salamander holders. In addition to restraining the tiny creatures, the clear plastic allows scientists to measure the salamander's underside and examine its interesting abdominal patterns. Just don't accidentally swap Babe Ruth for a gray newt.

macaque monkey and bathpoof

Most of us use a loofah (also known as a bath pouf or body sponge) to wash our bodies in the bathtub. But Eliza Bliss Morrow, a primatologist at the University of California, Davis, uses these ubiquitous cleaning products for an entirely different purpose. She discovered that the monkeys were also interested in these new items. And what monkeys do with them may give scientists insight into their very consciousness.

“We're assessing individual differences in emotional reactivity,” says Bliss-Moreau. “It's the basic mechanism that helps some people be total drama kings and queens while others are as calm as a cucumber.”

Cheese graters, silk flowers, feather dusters – Bliss Moreau wanders the aisles of Target and Home Depot looking for items that might interest a monkey. As for the pouf pictured, Bliss Moreau says she hadn't yet started experimenting with it that day. But one of the macaques had raided her backpack and taken her loofah while she was out doing other errands.

Set it and forget it

andrew sayloris a marine science and conservation consultant specializing in finding smart technical solutions to deep sea conservation problems. Much of that work is done via remotely operated vehicles equipped with all sorts of gadgets. For example, devices that measure conductivity, temperature, and depth (or CTD) are pretty standard.

The problem is that before these ocean sensors are deployed, we need to make sure they are reading correctly, which means they need to be calibrated. For that, Thaler turns to something a little more creative: an old-fashioned slow cooker.

Yes, it's stuffed with vegetables and meat and left in the kitchen to make stew. The only downside? Dinner is put on hold while he adjusts. “This is our family's only crockpot,” says Thaler, who is also CEO of an environmental consulting firm called Blackbeard Biologics. “Pulled pork. Corned beef. CTD. They're all slow-cooked the same way.”

Open your mouth and say “Ah”

There aren't many good ways to assess a crocodile's diet without killing the crocodile or risking your own life.so Adam RosenblattEcologists at the University of North Florida have devised a simple way to maximize intestinal contents without permanently harming the organism.

First, secure the alligator on a portable workbench. A metal water pipe is then inserted into its mouth to prevent munching. You can then run a hose through the pipe and pump water into the caiman's belly. “Finally, we perform the Heimlich maneuver on the crocodile, forcing water and prey out of its mouth and into a waiting bucket,” Rosenblatt says.

Don't worry; this black caiman may look like it's being waterboarded, but it's actually a routine procedure. After the procedure, the crocodile can move freely. Ecologists obtained the data and found that the caiman was not badly injured, other than losing a full belly of rotting meat. In the case of the caiman pictured, it seems that tropical rodents were on the menu.

“It's an agouti spine hanging out of its mouth,” Rosenblatt said.

Hey, kitty, kitty

As part of an effort to better understand landscape connectivity, Megan Jennings, a research ecologist at San Diego State University, set out to put GPS collars on a large number of bobcats. But she had to catch them first.

Jennings first baited the traps with “catnip-type powder” and parts of dead road deer, squirrels and rabbits. Now the cats are in the trap area, but to actually lure them into the cage, she relies on something that any cat lover can probably imagine: her feathers.

“We use down pillows as a source of feathers,” says Jennings. That's right, right out of bed, bath, and beyond.

Bobcats are visual predators, so they will investigate anything that catches their eye. In fact, Jennings says another good trick is to hang things like old his CDs, aluminum foil pie plates or salvaged mylar balloons outside the trap. It may seem silly, but science is not about what looks good, it's about what works.

Hey, kitty, kitty

As part of an effort to better understand landscape connectivity, Megan Jennings, a research ecologist at San Diego State University, set out to put GPS collars on a large number of bobcats. But she had to catch them first.

Jennings first baited the traps with “catnip-type powder” and parts of dead road deer, squirrels and rabbits. Now the cats are in the trap area, but to actually lure them into the cage, she relies on something that any cat lover can probably imagine: her feathers.

“We use down pillows as a source of feathers,” says Jennings. That's right, right out of bed, bath, and beyond.

Bobcats are visual predators, so they will investigate anything that catches their eye. In fact, Jennings says another good trick is to hang things like old his CDs, aluminum foil pie plates or salvaged mylar balloons outside the trap. It may seem silly, but science is not about what looks good, it's about what works.

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