42 Days

Florence Bascom at Yellowstone Lake, WY 1915.    Source:Sophia Smith Collection

Florence Bascom at Yellowstone Lake, WY 1915.
Source:Sophia Smith Collection

Being a scientist is hard work. Being a female scientist is harder work. Science proves it. A study conducted by Moss-Racusin, et al., 2012 titled “Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students” proved in a blind study that research intensive university faculty participants rated male applicants as more competent and hirable than female applicants for a research position. Each application was randomly assigned a male or female name with the same qualifications.

As an aspiring female scientist, I find this information disturbing. In addition to the pressure of excelling in every class, females need to overcompensate their skills in efforts to be viewed as qualified as her male colleagues, an absurd and exhausting task. Personally, as a geology student there is an additional pressure to perform well not only in the classroom but also out in the field. This means that each student in the geoscience department must embark on a pivotal several weeklong test at the end of his/her undergraduate career to assess whether he/she is truly capable of being a field geologist. Notice that I put field geologist and not just geologist, there’s a difference.

This past summer I spent 42 straight days outside. Yup, you read that correctly. 42 days of me and other students in my major sleeping in tents and traveling via caravan state to state as one big geology family. As part of my degree requirement, I need to complete six weeks of geology fieldwork, which for me was equivalent to aimlessly wandering around forests, deserts, and mountains attempting to complete my assignments accurately and swatting mosquitoes the size of baby birds away from my face. By far this was the most physically and mentally demanding work I have ever done and although I was surrounded by incredibly helpful professors, TAs and students I wish someone would have prepared me better to deal with female bodily functions. Such as how does one discreetly put a tampon in without falling down a mountain? Holding on to trees and bushes are the best solution to that problem by the way. Or how does one deal with cramps when there is no Midol and you are in the middle of Bumf*** nowhere? Lots of fetal position/begging other people for pain relievers. And lastly how does one have decent hygiene when there is no shower in sight for days and it’s 95°F? Baby wipes. Baby wipes. Baby wipes. Oh and more baby wipes. A combinations of these instances added to a daily assignment is tough work but I was constantly inspired by the strong women around me to keep rolling. Despite these instances I faced that tested every part of me, I was grateful when it was over because I ultimately became a better scientist. However, would I do it all over again? Absolutely not.


Pictured above is Florence Bascom, noted as one the first pioneering female geologists, at Yellowstone National Park in her field attire.