Of course, most scientists are in term of their projects, which take on life as their children.
But some biologists especially, share a commonality with parents of very young children. Pre-potty-training children. In that you develop a fascination with poop. My boss forwarded me and my coworkers the following article:
Whale Shark Poops on Camera - Scientists Rejoice!!!!
If you're not anywhere near mealtime, my coworker found the actual video:
Shark-cam captures ocean motion
I suppose if McCain/Palin had found any similar experiments funded with government money, you can imagine the brouhaha they would have raised. However, studies like this are quite legitimate in terms of fisheries management and looking at the health of entire ecosystems. As the scientist in the second articles says, "One way to work out what is going in one end is to look at what is coming out of the other."
I work on a project that studies what are called Coastal Pelagic Species, that is, species of small fish that form large schools near the coast and are thus a target of fairly large fisheries by humans. The major species in my area are Pacific mackerel, Pacific sardine, northern anchovy, and market squid. Another term for the these species is "Forage Fish," meaning that numerous other animals - larger fish, birds, and mammals - use them for food as well. My agency once did a study of sea lion poo, maybe not as extensive as the articles linked to, but looking through for the undigestible hard parts - squid beaks, otoliths (fish ear bones), scales - that could then be identified to species and the proportion of that species in their diet. This became one variable in a large mathematical model called a biomass assessment, that predicts how much of a particular species is out there swimming around this year, and how it should be divided up to a) keep enough adults out there to spawn for next year, 2) allow enough fish to be eaten by all the other animals that prey on them, 3) provide a percentage of the total to allocate to the people who fish for them for a living. Throw climate change into the mix - the reproduction of many of these species is heavily tied to water temperatures - and it begins to make things pretty complicated.
Something to think about the next time you enjoy a tin of sardines. Or not...* ;)
*Enjoying the sardines that is...it definitely should be thought about...