Popular Science magazine did a highly imaginative story recently on the so-called 'worst jobs in science'. I thought it was a pretty interesting choice of the ten different and varied jobs, guaranteeing a huge variety of physical and mental discomfort. I must say I was very impressed to know that I pretty much made the list in three different categories. Here they are : Triage Biologist, Monkey sex observer (I swear I'm not making this up!) and Leech researcher.
Personally I think the whole concept of a triage biologist (someone who chooses one species to conserve over another) has very little basis in logic. Supposedly mooted recently by Stanford University biologist Terry Root, who has worked with the IPCC, it wont win too many admirers among passionate conservationists. It is in fact more of an economist's way of looking at the
threats to biodiversity on Earth. The most basic problem is that we still don’t have the knowledge or the competence to start prioritising species based on their exact roles in the multitude of complicated ecosystems. Hell, we still haven't even a clue about the number of different species that exist on this planet and still talk of picking and choosing species we want to keep alive while the rest are to be obliterated off the face of time forever!!
Number two - monkey sex observer! Oh I've done my share of that with macaques. The reason why I don’t qualify is that unlike some primatologists, I wasn’t watching ONLY for the alpha male's thrusts and orgasmic grimaces. Its hardly as 'yuck' as the article makes it out to be.
Number three - Leech researcher. If you a re a biologist and you work anywhere in the Western Ghats or northeast India, it doesn’t matter what researcher you are, the leeches are gonna get you anyway. Yeah, the slimy buggers are everywhere, black, yellow, green, striped, big small, medium, massive, itch inducing, sore inducing, you name it, they are everywhere. Umm.. yes, I didn’t have to be a leech researcher to gather the bloody evidence!
Just in case you're wondering about the other seven jobs, here they are:
Lone Fossil Ranger
Medical Waste Burner
Mars Simulator Crew