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Only You Can Show Us The Poo

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Welcome to Day 1 of the “Poo Power! Global Challenge.” This is your citizen science mission, should you choose to accept it (and for the sake of the bottom of your shoes, the spread of disease and embracing new energy, I hope you will put on your Mission Impossible hat).

Maybe there are lots of dogs in your neighborhood, maybe not so many. The exact number really isn’t that important because every dog walking your streets is sure to make at least one daily brownish deposit. Whether the deposit stays on the street indefinitely or comes off as quickly as it came out has very little to do with the dog. Instead, the movement of poo off the street is often dictated by a person accompanying the dog.

Poo Power! Global Challenge is a new, Melbourne-based initiative asking you to provide data on the dog poo presence in your neighborhood. Are your streets dog poo free, or speckled with brown deposits? The answer might vary around the globe. A recent study in eight public parks in Northern Ireland found that “a weak majority (53.5%) of owners cleaned up their dogs’ feces.” In Bari, Italy, “418 dog faecal samples (44% of fecal samples were fresh feces and 56% were aged feces) were collected from sidewalks and streets of main roads” over the course of eight months.

Here’s How You Can Document the Dog Poo in Your Neighborhood:
First: Using a GPS-enabled iPhone, download the free Poo Power! App.
Second: Between November 25th and December 9th 2013, take pictures of the identifiers in your neighborhood (the poo) and upload them to the Global Poo Map.

The project will create a map which can “alert dog owners about the amount of uncollected dog waste that’s left in public areas, with the hope that this can be reduced with the aid of more conscientious dog ownership.”

Transform dog waste into energy:
If you live in Melbourne, Australia, you get to do a little more with the Poo Power! project (lucky you!). You can participate in an “effort to collect dog droppings and turn them into bio-gas for local use.” Principal scientist Mia Cobb, my partner in crime over at Do You Believe in Dog?, explains, “The methane that is released from the dog waste as it breaks down inside a ‘biogas generator’ can be used as a viable renewable energy source.” Dog “waste” will break free from the stigma of that term, and “waste” will be turned into energy that powers lights in Melbourne dog parks.

Not such a crazy concept. Here in the States, The Park Spark Project in Boston uses this model:

What are you waiting for, world? What’s the dog poo situation in your neighborhood? See you on the Global Poo Map!

Poo Power! Project Links
Poo Power! Website: www.poopower.com.au
Download the Free Poo Power! Ap
Scroll down to the ‘Competition Details’ for the Global Challenge Instructions
The Global Poo Map is filling up

Images
Oh Crappola via Flickr Creative Commons
Poo Power! mascot courtesy of Poo Power!

References
Cinquepalmi et al. 2013. Environmental contamination by dog’s faeces: a public health problem. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 10, 72-84.
Wells, D. L. 2006. Factors influencing owners’ reactions to their dogs’ fouling. Environment and Behavior 38, 707-714.

Julie Hecht About the Author: Julie Hecht is a canine behavioral researcher and science writer in New York City. She would really like to meet your dog. Follow on Twitter @DogSpies.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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