below and to right from:
1880, Harper & Brothers
26 APRIL 2000 The death of five ecologists on March 27 in a sudden storm in the Sea of Cortez reminds us that field science, like mining and farming, is a deadly profession.
Fieldwork biologists do it, and anthropologists, and geologists, too. They leave the laboratory to collect interviews, data, samples and other evidence of the natural and human world.
The Why Files got to wondering: What are the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in fieldwork?
If you're undaunted by crime, extortion and military thuggery, fieldwork's got that.
If you're unfazed by tropical disease, we might suggest a career in cultural anthropology?
If your life would be wasted if you never ever got to pay ransom for a human being, can we interest you in a career in archeology?
If you need to see a volcanic eruption up close and personal, remember that volcanologists can get burned or killed for the privilege of helping people live safely under the volcano.
Seriously, fieldwork is dangerous stuff. Between cars and criminals, diseases and disasters, you can get yourself maimed or murdered. About 10 years ago, sociologist Nancy Howell surveyed anthropologists. Her comprehensive report (see "Surviving Fieldwork" bibliography) should be required reading for anyone considering a career in a field science.
Mining and farming are considered the most dangerous occupations in the United States. But Howell, who's now at the University of Toronto, says anthropology "seems to be an order of magnitude more dangerous than mining or farming."
there is half the fun!
As more and more scientists spend their days gazing at computers or juggling test tubes, a brave minority continues to gather data in the field. They are following the path of giants: Before he developed the theory of evolution by natural selection, Charles Darwin spent years wandering the globe, collecting samples and observations.
Other field workers, though equally productive, bombed in the glory department. Alfred Russell Wallace, for example, traveled years longer than Darwin, but is almost forgotten despite having published a highly similar theory of evolution at the same time as Darwin.
At least Wallace survived. Other fieldworkers weren't so lucky. Two of the first 10 University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers in the Antarctic in the 1950s and '60s, for example, died in plane crashes.
If stability's your thing, we wouldn't suggest making a career of field science. But if you'd rather match wits with heavily armed teenagers than pour samples into a spectrometer, if you'd rather be stranded on a mountain with a larder containing kerosene-drenched oatmeal than guzzle diet soda at the keyboard, read on.
Can I get extra credit for climbing active volcanoes?
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