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Paleoscatologist
French paleontologist Marie-Antoinette De Lumley works at the archaeological prehistoric site of Caune de l'Arago in Tautavel, France. Paleoscatlogists are paleontologists who specialize in the world of fossilized poop. RAYMOND ROIG/AFP/Getty Images
French paleontologist Marie-Antoinette De Lumley works at the archaeological prehistoric site of Caune de l'Arago in Tautavel, France. Paleoscatlogists are paleontologists who specialize in the world of fossilized poop. RAYMOND ROIG/AFP/Getty Images

Karen Chin has gotten used to the jokes. As one of the world's leading paleoscatologists, she sits in her lab at the University of Colorado Boulder painstakingly dissecting and testing Tyrannosaurus Rex turds. The fossilized poop of extinct predators, Chin explains, contains exciting information about the ecosystems of bygone epochs. Matching a poop rock with its owner — or "poopetrator," as Chin joked to a publication — isn't easy, but she's been honing her skills for 20 years.

Fossilized excrement is called a coprolite, Greek for "dung" and "stone." Coprolites dating back to the dinosaurs are incredibly rare, since insects (cockroaches, mainly) or the elements typically break down the fecal matter before it can fossilize [source: Eveleth]. Due to the scarcity of specimens, and the raised eyebrows at dinner parties, Chin is one of only a handful of paleoscatologists worldwide [source: Strickland].

If you're interested in joining this small but fascinating field of scientific inquiry, follow Chin's lead and get a Ph.D. in geological sciences. Then you, too, can be called Dr. Dino Poop behind your back.


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