Scientists searching for owner of USB stick found frozen in seal poo
Feb 06 2019
The freakish case of the USB drive began on Oreti Beach in November 2017, a windswept stretch of sand flanked by dunes on the southern tip of New Zealand's South Island.
They included instructions for how to identify and safely collect leopard seal scat, which they said is "good as gold" for researchers. This might seem like slightly weird behaviour, but going through the seal poo allows researchers to get a good look at the diets, health, and likely past whereabouts of the seal that did the business. The institute is now offering to return the USB stick to its owner, but for a price: They want more seal poop. A volunteer collected the scat in November 2017 and sent it to NIWA, where it remained frozen until January 2019.
Two volunteers who take part in the not-so-glamourous work are Jodie Warren and Melanie Magnan.
Recognise this video? Scientists analysing the scat of leopard seals have come across an unexpected discovery - a USB stick full of photos & still in working order! It was only until three weeks ago when volunteers at the institute defrosted the poop and began examining it.
"It is very worrying that these awesome Antarctic animals have plastic like this inside them", Warren added.
After discovering the drive, which seemed to still be intact, they let it dry out for a while, then popped it in to a computer to see what was on it. The only clue is the nose of the blue kayak in the video. There were pictures of sea lions on a beach and a video of a female sea lion and her pup in the water.
If you're missing a USB stick from a seal-watching expedition to New Zealand, we have some great news for you. There, NIWA says a vet went to check on a emaciated leopard seal and like any normal person, made a decision to scoop a pile of poop to send to researchers with leopardseals.org. The poo-collecting volunteers are part of a Leopard Seals group advocating for more research and better protections for the marine animals.