Popular Science just released its annual Bottom 10 List of Worst Job in Science. Making its debut at no. 10 is this: whale poop researcher.
“Brown stain ahoy!” is not the cry most mariners long to hear, but for Rosalind Rolland, a senior researcher at the New England Aquarium in Boston, it’s a siren song. Rolland, along with a few lucky research assistants, combs Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy looking for endangered North Atlantic right whales. Actually, she’s not really looking for the whales—just their poo. “It surprised even me how much you can learn about a whale through its feces,” says Rolland, who recently published the most complete study of right whales ever conducted. “You can test for pregnancy, measure hormones and biotoxins, examine its genetics. You can even tell individuals apart.”