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Ethan and Luca dissect owl pellets during the Ocean Institute’s Family Science Night on Thursday, July 20. Photo: Erin McFaul

By Erin McFaul

The Ocean Institute’s Director of Outdoor Education Nathan Taxel began his lecture titled, The Scoop on Poop, by having attendees shout out together “ew, gross” for the first and final time.

“Hopefully we can learn some science now without being too grossed out,” Taxel said.

In the second of three installments of Family Science Nights on Thursday, July 20, guests were able to see and smell a collection of animal droppings.

Taxel led the crowd in a 40-minute lecture about the importance of life’s natural processes and what a scientist can learn from animal droppings. Taxel walked attendees through the research procedure, allowing them to discover which animal produced the droppings and what type of food it eats.

The theme for this year’s Family Science Nights is part of the institute’s “Grossology” exhibit that is open on weekends during the summer. Director of Public Programs Alexandra Latona said the exhibit includes three hands-on labs—slime, scat and smell—that explore the dirtier side of life.

Visitors will have the opportunity to make their own slime, explore the smells of the deep ocean and examine animal droppings, Latona said.

The institute’s final installation of the Family Science Nights series will take place on Thursday, August 17, and will feature slime and why animals produce the sticky goo.

“We want to show them that science can be fun and it doesn’t always have to be serious,” Latona said. “There’s scientific inquiry in everything you do.”

Gregory dissects owl pellets with Ocean Institute Director of Outdoor Education Nathan Taxel during the Institute’s Family Science Night on Thursday, July 20. Photo: Erin McFaul

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