Monday, 11 April 2016

The National Poo Museum

What is poo?
Poo is solid waste from one's body.

When we mention the word "poo" we normally cringe with embarrassment and disgust.

However, one man has put his feelings aside to set up a museum dedicated to poo.

Nigel George, the co-founder of The National Poo Museum at The Isle Of Wight Zoo agree to an interview with me.


When and why was The National Poo Museum established?
The NPM has been a work in progress for about a year but has only had an exhibition up and running since Easter 2016.

What is your fascination with excrement?
Poo is fascinating in so many ways.
It can tell us about the health of ecosystems and biodiversity.
It can be used as fuel and as a building material.
With out poo our planet would be a baron desert.
That's pretty fascinating for a start as there's much more!!

What is on offer at the museum?
The Poo at the Zoo exhibition at the Isle of Wight Zoo is our debut project.
For this exhibition we've focused on a nature detective theme.
Right now we have 18 resin encapsulated poos on display, they can be illuminated by the push of a button.

At what cost is it to enter the museum?
The Poo at the Zoo is free when you visit the zoo.
Admission prices to the Isle of Wight Zoo are here - http:/www.isleofwightzoo.comvisit-us.aspx

How is the excrement prepared for display?
It's slow process!
Once the poo has been selected by our technician it is carefully moved to a special poo-dryer.
Depending on the size of the poo it stays in the dry for somewhere between a day to a week or so.
Once completely dry the poo is then carefully captured in clear resin, this can take days to do as the resin must be poured slowly and in small amounts, a bit at a time.

What is a "poo technician" and what does one do?
The poo technician assists the poo encapsulator and poo curator to do their jobs!

What is a "poo encapsulation" and what does one do?
See above

Where did you obtain the excrement from?
Many places.
Some from the Isle of Wight Zoo and some from the countryside where we live on the Isle of Wight.

Are there any health complications when coming into contact with animal/human excrement?
Yes, some poo can be quite dangerous. Parasites and bacterial infections can occur so great care is taken to make sure hygiene is maintained at all stages of drying and encapsulation.

How can green energy be obtained from excrement?
There are several ways energy can be obtained from poo.
Gasification uses a process called Anaerobic Digestion to create biogas.
Poo is eaten by bacteria and in the process create methane which can be harvested and used just like ordinary gas. Poo can also be burned as a fuel, it's quite common in some countries for people to gather the poo of herbivorous animals to make in to burnable bricks.
Some experiments have been successfully carried out that produce electricity directly from poo.
This basically means that there is such a thing as a poo battery! see here -

Can you please share 10 facts about excrement with me?
(1) If you have a poo while on a train in the UK there's a 25% chance it will pass directly through the bottom of the carriage and onto the track.
Mick Cash, General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers said:
"Not only is this a filthy way of disposing of human waste, but it also poses real health risks and dangers for RMT members out there working on the tracks and in the depots."
(2) Wombats are the only animal known to produce cubic poos.
These large marsupials, native to Australia mark their territory by balancing their droppings on rocks or fallen branches.
The flat, square sides make them less likely to roll off.
(3) It is a curious fact that skatole, the chemical which gives faeces its strong, foul smell is also produced by several white flowers.
At low concentrations it smells pleasant and floral and it is commonly used to make perfume.
(4) Your poo is not just waste matter.
It is alive with hundreds of different types of micro-organism.
Together they are known as the microbiome or gut flora.
These work hard for you to:
- release energy from your food. Without them we would need about 30% more food.
- regulate your immune system. Evidence is mounting that damage to the microbiome by antibiotics early in life can lead to poor regulation of the body's immune system and associated problems such as allergies.
- produce vitamins which your body needs to work properly.
(5) Only about 1% of the genes in your body are human - the rest are microbial and are found mainly in your poo.
Recent research is starting to reveal the complex relationship between these microbes and the rest of the body.
They have evolved together and they work together in all sorts of ways for the benefit of the whole body.
Poo is now being refered to by some biologists and medics as the 'forgotten organ'.
(6) Do you know how to poo?
If you generally sit on a toilet to do this, the chances are you don't do it as well as you could.
Microbiologist Giulia Enders, writer of 'Darm mit charme' (Charming Bowels in German) explains that sitting down to poo means that the muscles in the gut have to struggle to squeeze excrement around the kink in the intestines. "Just like a car on the highway, turning a corner means our feces have to put on the brakes,"
This can cause painful problems like piles and diverticulosis.
Historically people would squat when they needed to poo and millions of people around the world continue to do so.
This position relieves the constriction of the intestine allowing the poo to pass more easily.
You can achieve a similar effect by placing a small foot stool under your feet when you're sitting on the toilet.
Go on - try it for yourself!
(7) Clostridium Difficile infection is thought to occur when this bacterium replaces the normal gut flora.
Often this follows antibiotic treatment for an unrelated infection.
The disturbance of normal healthy bacteria may provide C. difficile an opportunity to overrun the intestinal microbiome.
It is a life-threatening condition and can be very difficult to treat with anti-biotics.
However, around 90% of patients can be cured quickly by a relatively simple transfer of poo from a healthy person into the intestines of the patient.
At first there was much resistance to this from the medical establishment, but it has been so effective that many medics are now calling for it to be the first line of treatment for sufferers of C Difficile.
8 Before the invention of flush toilets, human poo was collected from households during the night by 'night soil men' or 'gong farmers'.
It is still common in many countries and it is niw known as manual scavenging. Human poo is typically collected using brooms and tin plates, and usually no personal protective equipment by the workers doing the job.
The excreta are piled into baskets which the workers may carry on their heads to locations sometimes several kilometers from the latrines.
(9) Many animals eat poo and some produce special types of poo known as cecotropes which are specially designed to be eaten.
Cecotropes or night feces, are the product of the cecum, a part of the digestive system in certain mammals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, young marsupials and even gorillas and chimpanzees.
Eating their own poo enables these animals to get more nutrition out of their food.
Other animals eat the poo of their family and friends in order to obtain the microbes necessary for their digestion to work.
Without doing this, young elephants may die.
Have you ever seen a young puppy making a meal of something digusting? Now you know why!
(10) Many of our foods are fermented. This gives them distinctive flavours and can also give them high levels of vitamins produced by the fermentation bacteria.
Did you know that some of these bacteria come from poo?
Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG which is widely used in yoghurts and pro-biotic drinks was isolated from human faeces in 1983.
Food scientists in Spain are also working on a new type of sausage using bacteria from human baby poo.

Nigel George Co-Founder
National Poo Museum

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