Summary: Questions for ‘Cool Jobs: Poop investigators’


Karen Chin studies fossilized feces to learn what dinosaurs ate and how they interacted with their environment.

K. Chin

To accompany feature “Cool Jobs: Poop investigators”


Before Reading

1. Why do animals poop?

2. List three things you might be able to learn from a creature by studying its poop.

During Reading

1.   What does in fimo mean? Where did the term come from and how old is it?

2.   How did Patricia Yang get interested in wombats? What about their habits did she find so curious and hard to believe?

3.   What did Yang’s research group learn about how wombat poop gets its shape? How did they figure it out?

4.   What is one possible industrial application for what Yang’s group learned, as described in the story?

5.   What are coprolites? Why are they rare?

6.   How do scientists like Karen Chin identify coprolites?

7.   What surprising thing did Chin learn about hadrosaurs by studying coprolites?

8.   What is the gut microbiome and how does analyzing poop help scientists learn about it?

9.   Why might gut microbiome studies conducted in different laboratories come up with different results? Why could this be a problem?

10.   How is Scott Jackson trying to address this challenge?

After Reading:

1.   What factors might have influenced the evolution of the unusual shape of some wombats’ poop? 

2.   Imagine that you are a member of Scott Jackson’s research group. You receive microbiome DNA analyses and a description of the methods used by each of the 100 labs that got the poop sample kits. Explain how you would evaluate which method or methods are best for this type of analysis.