Nfld. & Labrador

Here's the dirt: How moose poop is helping this biologist understand the ecosystem

Graduate student Makayla Swain is studying the effects of moose on forests in N.L. — and one of their biggest impacts comes in the form of poop. Because moose are not native to Newfoundland, the landscape is affected by their very presence, and by what they leave behind.

Piles of moose pellets are brown gold to biology student Makayla Swain

The Science of Moose Poop

8 months ago
Duration 2:31
Piles of moose pellets are brown gold to biology student Makayla Swain. She's studying how moose are impacting the forest ecology in Newfoundland. And one of their biggest impacts comes in the form of poop. 2:31

A fresh pile of moose pellets in the middle of a forest trail may be an unwelcome sight for hikers in Newfoundland, but for Makayla Swain, those pellets are brown gold.

Swain is completing a master's degree in biology at Memorial University. She's studying how moose are affecting the island's forest ecology, and one of their biggest impacts comes in the form of poop.

Because moose are not native to the island, every aspect of their presence can affect the complex web of connections that comprise a forest ecosystem.

But when Swain tells others about her research, there's one aspect they tend to focus on. 

"My research is very overarching, I have so many different methods, I'm looking at so many different things, but as soon as I say, 'pooping,' that's all anyone hears," said Swain.

"Same with my family. It's like, 'Oh, you're studying moose poop — you're the moose poop girl!' So I guess that's who I am now," she said with a chuckle. 

For Swain, the topic that makes people smile is a gateway to serious investigation, including on how a species introduced just over a century ago is affecting its new home. 

Click on the video above to take a walk in the woods with a young scientist who isn't afraid to get her hands dirty.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Zach Goudie is a journalist and video producer with CBC in St. John's.

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