Embracing my inner primatologist

I first became interested in science through a love of animals. The first career I ever aspired to was James Herriot’s, followed by David Attenborough’s.
This seems to be a common career path for many biological scientists; I’ve met several other people who’ve made their way down the chain from large interesting mammals to tiny interesting genes. (I suppose quantum physicists are the people who took that journey to its logical conclusion, although I suspect that they may have started with rocket ships and black holes rather than dolphins and whales).

As much as I’ve enjoyed my career to date, I’m still envious of people who’ve followed that childhood dream of field zoology. Especially primatologists. The closest I’ve ever got was analysis of primate gene promoter sequences.
Luckily, the blogosphere contains a cornucopia of delights for the ape fan. Last year I became engrossed in a blog called Bonobo Handshake, which followed Vanessa Woods’ field work with Congo’s bonobos and chimpanzees. Great stuff, and I think I had actual withdrawal symptoms when she returned to Germany and stopped providing updates.
Fortunately I just discovered the Harvard Chimp and Bonobo Blog, Living Links and Primate Infonet, so I can still get my fix until Vanessa gets going again. What I really need though is an orangutan blog – those guys are my favourites.
Are there any other frustrated field zoologists out there? Or is there some other early career dream that you didn’t follow? Do you too read blogs written by the people who were brave enough to go out there and just do it?
Do field zoologists sit around their campfires at night and wish they were analysing gene sequences instead?

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
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5 Responses to Embracing my inner primatologist

  1. steffi suhr says:

    Second to last question: no, generally not – I get too jealous. Last question – hell no. Wait, was that a trick question?

  2. Cath Ennis says:

    Yeah, the jealousy is a bummer! The road not taken… mind you, while I love camping, after a week of it I’m always very happy to come home to showers and comfy beds, so it’s probably all for the best.

  3. steffi suhr says:

    True – and coffee at the push of a button…

  4. Henry Gee says:

    In my brief career as a palaeontologist, I spent all my time in museums, and never went on a field trip. (Not entirely true – I did go on one trip, to a field. Near Clacton. Where someone had dug a great big hole. We all looked into it).
    It wasn’t until I’d been at Nature for many years that I was invited to join Meave Leakey’s 1998 season on the western shore of Lake Turkana. I was working at the locality that eventually yielded Kenyanthropus .
    I spent almost three weeks there. It was very tough living, especially for the first two or three days, but on the whole I had a blast – and can quite see why anyone would want to build their careers round fieldwork.
    I returned lean, tanned and fit. To this day, Mrs Gee asks when I’m going to go on another field trip…

  5. Austin Elliott says:

    Hadn’t thought about it, but I suppose it is true for me too – I grew up reading Gerald Durrell’s books, and Joy Adamson’s famous Born Free, and watching Jacques Costeau’s television shows. My mother sometimes says that she had always thought that if I followed my dad into science I would have done something field conservation-al. But I absolutely hate camping, so I think I made the right choice…

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