By Milly Breward

I wonder if everyone has as many poo stories as I have!? It seems to have been a feature in many of my significant moments.

My early memories include many happy occasions spending time with my cousins. I remember time at each other’s homes playing games. We would also spend time at our grandparents and I recall one such time when our parents were away, spending the day with grandma and playing Othello (or reversi). Now it is a game of strategy but I am not sure I understood this so would merrily place my pieces in ways that may not have been always sensible game play but I enjoyed turning the pieces. My cousin is more thoughtful and would ponder the placement of her pieces. Unfortunately, on one such ponder she managed to swallow one of the pieces! Well, I probably remember this because all sorts of panic followed…parents were called, cousin was rushed to the hospital, all was well but the piece was lost…until it wasn’t. And a couple of weeks later in my Dad’s birthday card, there was the lost piece. Disinfected but most definitely found. True story.

Me & my cousins (younger brother in front)

One of my first jobs was as babysitting. Sometimes Jamie would come over and spend the evening with us all. I remember one occasion where I was changing a nappy and suddenly realised that I had not put the wet wipes away properly and they were on the other side of the room to the child who was on the table with a very dirty bottom. I couldn’t reach the wipes and I couldn’t leave the child on the changing table so I called for help. Jamie walked in the room asked what I needed, gagged and walked out stating that nothing could smell that bad and he didn’t know how such a small person could make that much mess! As much as I tried, I could not get him to come in or throw the wipes… he was gone! Jamie did eventually forgive me for working with such small smelly creatures but you can understand that we don’t have children 😊

Nannying Days

We spent 3 months in Africa in 2002 carrying out marine research where we would often be found discussing our toilet habits over our evening meal. Colour, consistency and frequency were all discussed as a way of checking up on each other’s health – isn’t this what everyone discusses over dinner? After this we thought we deserved a holiday and my younger brother joined us for a safari and spice trail trip. Half way round, you guessed it, we came across some poo. It was huge and my brother James was enthralled, what was it, where had it come from, could he touch it!!! It was elephant poo and yes, I guess you can touch it and I now have a lovely picture of my brother holding up a piece of elephant poo that is the size of his head.

Left: Africa Spice Trip  Right: James with elephant poo

And so, to the present. I have spoken previously of my first week at Arid Recovery where I was asked to look after the poo that was gently cooking in the oven in the shed. I have enjoyed many visits to the lab to observe Mel going through the cooked quoll poo and I think this is first time I have really come to appreciate what you can learn from pulling apart poo. Seeing tiny claws, scales and bones and finding out how you can identify the hair by taking a cross section has almost given this admin chick an interest in science.

Mel in the lab being pestered by me

But the answer to the question, I have come to realise, is that scientists have as many, if not more, stories about poo than I do. Maybe this makes me a scientist in training?