Researchers have been going park to park to collect 100 canine samples, 20 from each borough. They are amassing similar citywide data sets from cats, rats, mice, pigeons and cockroaches.
The young woman with the clipboard had an unusual request.
It was a chilly Thursday morning a few weeks ago at a new dog park on the East River in Queens. The sun glinted hard on the choppy water. Off-leash dogs ran up and down little hills of concrete as the woman explained her mission to the owner of a mutt named Alice.
“Will you be willing to give us your dog’s poop?” she asked.
Alice’s owner said yes. So did a woman with an Irish terrier named Scarlet.
“I do research myself, so I’m very sympathetic to people who collect data, whatever data it is,” said Scarlet’s owner, Annie Duflo.
So, gladly, did the owner of a 120-pound Alaskan malamute, Juno. “Juno’s poop is pretty big, so everybody usually runs away from it, not toward it,” said his owner, Shaun Hostutler, who works for the Air Force.
Each dog owner filled out a form and handed it over, along with the goods, in a plastic bag. The woman with the clipboard, Aditi Naik, placed them in a plastic foam box filled with ice packs.
Ms. Naik is a graduate student at New York University. The dogs of Hunters Point South Park had just contributed to a survey of the microbial life of New York City’s pets and pests.