AND you thought your job was tough.

As part of a study into how dogs pick up microbes while swimming in the River Thames, scientists spent the day at a Wallingford park sampling steaming fresh piles of evidence.

The researchers from Wallingford's own Centre for Ecology and Hydrology wandered around the Bullcroft park from 9am on Saturday, November 18, meeting dog walkers, their canine companions, and picking up their little presents.

Jamie Lorimer and Carmen McLeod, who are members of the Oxford Interdisciplinary Microbiome Project, also asked dog walkers to complete a short survey about their pet and its interactions with the Thames, such as swimming or drinking, before asking if they had any spare poo they could take away.

After a successful day out, they passed on the pungent parcels to their colleague at the CEH, Andrew Singer, and his PhD student Holly Tripper, who are now trying to find out what microbes are present in various samples.

The unusual pilot study, the first of its kind, aims to map out the microbes that dogs are exposed to when interacting with the Thames, as well as gathering associated qualitative data from dog walkers.

Dr Lorimer, who also lectures at Oxford University's school of geography and environment, said: "Our rivers are chronic recipients of sewage, but the implications of this on the health of dogs that use our rivers for swimming, playing and drinking have not been assessed.

"Transmission of antimicrobial resistance or even pathogens from our rivers to dogs also has potential implications to the owner's health."

Dog owners who helped with the study at the Bullcroft were invited to provide their contact details to find out the results of the data collection, and to discuss the results of the sequencing at interview and in a focus group.

The data is expected to have been processed sometime in January.

In the meantime, after a successful first expedition, the team are now planning to make more collecting trips into Wallingford and Oxford in due course.

To find out more or volunteer to take part see or look out for updates at