Thursday, September 2, 2021


Stories about people in the field shape the narrative of who a field researcher, teacher, caretaker, and leader can be. Our goal is to show that parents can be successful in field based roles, and that there are many different successful solutions to fieldwork while parenting.  This will help provide some good advice and examples for people wanting to do the same, and also be a proof-of-concept for those concerned that it can not be done.  With that being said, as with both research and parenting on their own, things don't always go smoothly.  We also warmly welcome stories about adventures that didn't completely work out as planned.  There is value in the null results!

We want to share all of the different solutions parents have figured out to doing fieldwork when they have children, and there are a lot of different situations and solutions.  So your experience is important. These stories can be about fieldwork ranging from adventures in other countries to local day-trips.  They can be in the wilderness, at field stations, or in the wildland/urban interface (or anywhere in between).  We are not limited by discipline.  The fieldwork can be for surveys, research, professional photography, or teaching (and everything in between). The children could just be along for the trip and watched by another caregiver during the actual work, they could be side-by-side with the parent, or any combination.  Children could be infants to teenagers.   The story could be recent, or decades ago.  If you were the kid brought along in the field, we would love your perspective too.  Stories about managing pumping and traveling welcome as well.  The story could be a paragraph or multiple pages, photos or no photos, all up to you.

If you want to submit a paragraph now, and turn it into a few pages later, we will happily update it later.  We know you are busy!  If you aren't sure if your story "counts", email me and we will figure it out together.

If you have a story you are willing to share, please send me a message -  We can post with credit or anonymously, whichever you prefer.  We also will happily post a link to your blog post, if you have already shared a story of this elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Journal Article - Family and the field: Expectations of a field-based research career affect researcher family planning decisions


Family and the field: Expectations of a field-based research career affect researcher family planning decisions

Christopher D. LynnConceptualizationData curationFormal analysisInvestigationWriting – original draftWriting – review & editing,
1,* Michaela E. HowellsConceptualizationInvestigationWriting – original draftWriting – review & editing,
2 and Max J. SteinData curationFormal analysisWriting – review & editing1
Mellissa H. Withers, Editor
 2018; 13(9): e0203500.
Published online 2018 Sep 7. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0203500


Field-based data collection provides an extraordinary opportunity for comparative research. However, the demands of pursuing research away from home creates an expectation of unburdened individuals who have the temporal, financial, and social resources to conduct this work. Here we examine whether this myth of the socially unencumbered scholar contributes to the loss of professionals and trainees. To investigate this, we conducted an internet-based survey of professional and graduate student anthropologists (n = 1025) focused on the challenges and barriers associated with developing and maintaining a fieldwork-oriented career path and an active family life. This study sought to determine how (1) family socioeconomic status impacts becoming an anthropologist, (2) expectations of field-based research influence family planning, and (3) fieldwork experiences influence perceptions of family-career balance and stress. We found that most anthropologists and anthropology students come from educated households and that white men were significantly more likely to become tenured professionals than other demographic groups. The gender disparity is striking because a larger number of women are trained in anthropology and were more likely than men to report delaying parenthood to pursue their career. Furthermore, regardless of socioeconomic background, anthropologists reported significant lack of family-career balance and high stress associated with the profession. For professionals, lack of balance was most associated with gender, age, SES, tenure, and impacts of parenting on their career, while for students it was ethnicity, relative degree speed, graduate funding, employment status, total research conducted, career impact on family planning, and concern with tenure (p < .05). Anthropology bridges the sciences and humanities, making it the ideal discipline to initiate discussions on the embedded structural components of field-based careers generalizable across specialties.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Pregnant and Purposeful

Raptor biologist, Shannon Skalos, in a photo taken during her pregnancy with an adult female (mamas represent!) Harrier (Circus hudsonius) that is part of her research.  

Monday, August 30, 2021

Supportive Work Environment and Successful Science

Bonnie Eyestone is the Rangeland Monitoring Network Coordinator for Point Blue Conservation Science (Point Blue), and she and her son were recently featured by Point Blue in a social media post celebrating her fieldwork with her child.  They wrote "Training the next generation of scientists is helpful with an early start! Check out our #RangelandMonitoring Network Coordinator Bonnie Eyestone monitoring vegetation this past field season in Sonoma County with her baby boy in tow. This mama is getting work done! Bonnie sent these photos to us, saying, " I am incredibly grateful to Point Blue for their family friendly culture, allowing me to bring my baby to work and inspire the next generation of conservationists." We are inspired by your multitasking prowess Bonnie! And little guy Axel looks like a great field partner 🤗"

Bonnie Eyestone and Axel, getting fieldwork done. Photo by Taj Hittenberger

The family friendly environment at Point Blue is so obvious from the celebration of Bonnie's accomplishments in that post. Bonnie shared some more stories, and they further confirmed what a positive experience doing fieldwork while parenting in that supportive environment has been like.

"With my first son, my team at work gifted me an Osprey child carrier backpack so I could take the baby along with me for work.  My second boy was born in February and got to join me for fieldwork when I returned from leave.  I brought a pop-up sun tent for him to take naps in and play in the shade while my coworkers and I collected vegetation data.  Newborn child care is hard to find, especially without family living nearby, so I am grateful I'm able to bring him with me.  My team at work is supportive and flexible even when our work gets interrupted for breastfeeding or to calm a fussy baby.

A great Covid work-from-home parenting moment occurred this past January when I was hosting a virtual event and set my "office" up in the back yard so I could watch my then 18-month-old play while I gave a presentation.  Of course, he was playing happily and safely during the whole event until it was my turn to present.  Nine-months pregnant I had to dash off-screen to rescue him out of some landscaping and proceeded with the rest of the presentation with him on my hip, snuggled against my huge belly.  Everyone was gracious about it and his smile charmed the audience."

Bonnie Eyestone and Axel, taking a break in the shade during fieldwork. Photo by Taj Hittenberger

We applaud Bonnie for all the good work she does as a scientist, a field scientist, and a mother.  We also applaud Point Blue for providing the kind of culture and environment that makes sure the good work done by scientists in their organization can continue through many life phases, including parenting young children.  This is good for the science, it's good for parents, particularly women in science, and this is a wonderful model for other organizations.  

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Sweet Success Story

Hannah Melanie Parry-Wilson is a PhD student studying the biogeographic range shifts and physiological tolerances of native gastropods in response to climate change effects.  She had a positive story of her fieldwork that she was willing to share here as inspiration for others.  

"[I was] terrified to go on a PhD fieldwork trip for a week away from my little one (14 months) whilst we were still breastfeeding and co-sleeping…
Well, I got back from my fieldwork trip late yesterday (whilst baby was in bed) and thankfully the entire trip wasn’t half as stressful as I was expecting."
"Dad and baby now have a much stronger bond. Baby has been eating, drinking cows milk and sleeping like a trooper since I’ve been away, and thankfully hasn’t been distant at all from me since she saw me this morning (after her confusion wavered) - she is now happy to be held by both Mumma and Dadda and not being too preferential as she was before.
Thanks again to everyone that offered their stories in similar situations and I’m pleased to say the fieldwork trip was a success! 

Photo is of my gorgeous girl asleep with her dolly that she decided has become her comforter/sleeping partner since I left."

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Survey Assistant and Habitat Restoration Helpers

I like to say that while I can't do everything with kids that I could do without them, I can still do everything I need to in order to excel at many field jobs.  One of my favorite field activities with my children is checking wildlife cameras.  It is exciting for me to see which wildlife came by, and the children are as excited or more.  There are also many parts of the activity that they can help with, even from a young age.  The following photos are from some work we did on the River Otter Ecology Project.

At the time, this project was just starting to document the return of this species to the region.  The work involved driving to beautiful locations in Marin County, California, hiking into a survey site, and setting up cameras or downloading images.

Here are some photos taken by the Executive Director of the organization, Megan Isadore, of me and my youngest son setting and checking cameras.

Setting up a camera station
Reviewing images in the field
Most of the sites involved short hikes, which the kids are great at and enjoy.  This photo was taken at a beachside field site.  The children just played nearby in the sand while I set the camera.  My older boy was fabulous at pretending to be an otter, to check if we had set up the camera properly.

The logistics of doing the camera trapping work were fairly easy.  I was able to get a child carrier backpack with space for gear in a lower compartment.  If I needed more space, I used a large hip pack, worn in the front.  Plenty of the child carriers are now made for people doing backpacking trips with their children, and doing a lot of fieldwork is really not all that different.  I found bringing a sarong was very useful for multitasking as a field changing table, sun shade, and wiping sand off of the camera lenses.  
I have also had the boys with me during habitat restoration work.  Thank you to Jude Stalker at the Invasive Limonium Removal project for this photo of my assistant during invasive species removal.

Removing Invasive Plants
And Jude also took the photo below of my older son helping with oak tree plantings at a restoration site.  He eventually got a shovel and started digging the holes in the soft dirt to put the acorns in.  Kids are great at digging in the dirt.  We need to go and check on those oaks.  This little boy is 10 years old now, and I bet the oaks may have outgrown the both of us.
Planting Oaks
Here is that same little boy 10 years later, taking a chorus frog from a pitfall trap 

I have found participating in citizen science field days is a great way to introduce kids to field work and get them experience with data collection in a low stress (for me!) situation.  We helped out in a Bioblitz, which was documented for a PBS special, shown here.

And this now budding wildlife biologist assisting with roosting bat surveys, part of the Great Causeway Bat Count, at nearly 12 years old.

And doing cast net surveys at 13 years old. 

and, at 16yo, starting to launch on his own beyond working with Mom - here he is participating in a Field Research Course, his first college credits.  

Working with Dr. Rosemary Smith, dye marking rodents as part of a study. 
Photo Credit: Kierstin Thompson

Monday, February 1, 2021

Field Pumping Victories, Progress, and Perils

We are not always able to bring our children in the field with us.  It just doesn't make sense in a lot of situations.  There are logistical challenges to not bringing the children, just as with any working parent, such as coordinating childcare etc..  If that parent is a breastfeeding mother, and needs to pump while not with her child, those logistical challenges can result in some heroic, harrowing, and humorous situations in the field.  We will update and add to this post as new anecdotes come in.

Before we get into the weeds on this, I think it is important to point out that every single breastfeeding working mom handles this, we deal with it fine, and generally without you even being aware of it.  Let the mom be the judge about what she can handle.  All moms and situations are different, and there is no need for other people to preemptively decide what these parent researchers can and can not manage, especially when it's not something you have personally dealt with.

To fully understand some of these stories, you need to understand a bit about breastfeeding and pumping.  For those unfamiliar with the purpose, need, and process of pumping in general - here is a quick tutorial.  The process is fairly similar to what dairy cows go through... If a woman is nursing her child, her body is making as much milk as the child currently taking out.  Production doesn't immediately cease when she isn't with the kid.  If she doesn't pump, after awhile she will experience engorgement and leakage, both of which are fairly self explanatory.  That sends a signal to her body that she doesn't need to produce as much milk in the future, which is not the case if she plans to continue breastfeeding.  Therefore, she also needs to take the milk out to keep her production up to the level her child needs.  Hence the milk extraction process.

The pumping process varies between models of pumps, but there are some consistent themes.  There is an electric motor (usually with a battery power option), that creates suction.  There are tubes from the motor that go to funnels placed on the breasts, and bottles attach to the front of the funnels to collect the milk.  There are special bras that will hold the funnel/bottle combo in place, and this allows a mom to work with her hands while she pumps.  Being able to be productive during pumping is important, because the process is not like dumping out a cup, it is more like emptying out a spray bottle by squirting it a bunch of time.  Milk extraction can take awhile (~10-20 min).  The entire process is creating food for babies, so all the parts need to be kept sterile if the baby is getting that milk later.  This means somewhere to wash, and possibly boil, components.  If that level of cleanliness isn't possible, there is always the pump and dump (which is sad, because that stuff is liquid gold), but being somewhere with access to clean water or sterilizing wipes is preferred.  Then the milk needs to be safely stored.  It can be refrigerated for up the three days, or frozen for up to three months (but that requires consistent access to refrigeration or ice).  Airlines technically allow frozen milk to be transported, if stringent rules are followed, but not all airline employees realize this, and there are plenty of stories of multiple weeks worth of milk being thrown out even when rules were followed.

So, for all of the reasons above, sometimes it really is easier and less time consuming to just have the baby in the field (with the mom, or in the vicinity with a caregiver).  That being said, sometimes that just isn't feasible to bring baby, so here are the promised heroic,  harrowing, and humous tales from the rock star field researcher pumping moms.

**We will update this with additional stories as they come in, so please share yours!  Let's normalize this and support upcoming field researcher parents!***
  1. "I taught a field course in Saint Lucia while pumping. I could not afford to bring my family, plus we were on a scuba diving boat all day every day, no place for baby/dad to be asked to hang out! I pumped the whole time and was able to keep up my supply and bring back the last 6 days worth of the milk. I pumped between dives on the boat with my manual Medela breastpump (HIGHLY recommend!!) under a nursing cover, stored milk on the boat in a cooler, and use pump sanitizing wipes (the Medela ones) to sanitize. There was no way to have privacy on the boat other than my nursing cover. I think it was actually really good for my students to see a pumping mom and see how dedicated I was to both them (teaching the course) and my family. They learned a lot about pumping and no one was weird about it at all. It really was great!"  - Melissa Meadows
  2. "I pumped when at work for roughly a year, in the office and in the field.   I'll save the office stories for another time, but here is one of an unplanned field pump.  When my son was about 8 months old, I was working as a consultant, and I had a site visit with a client.   By that time, I had been pumping while at work for awhile, and was a pro at timing it so I could slip away and pump between commitments, or during water breaks during surveys.  We had a three hour meeting scheduled, which was no problem.  I pumped prior to the meeting, and then headed over.  But the meeting went over time, and then the client wanted to go and visit the entire site with us.  As the meeting stretched out to 5 hours, other things were stretching as well!  I was getting fairly uncomfortable, and leakage was imminent.  I didn't feel comfortable telling the client, who I didn't know well, the situation.  But luckily the other person I was in the field with was a Mom, I quietly explained the situation to her, and she understood and was on board to help.  We told the client that I had a previously scheduled conference call, which is a perfectly acceptable corporate reason to need to step away if a meeting ran overtime.  She took over the meeting on foot, and I took the vehicle to a stand of trees and pumped out as much as possible in 10 minutes, and returned to the group.  It all worked out fine!  But I was extra careful to ask about the possibility of extended follow up site visits after that.  Most of my fieldwork was carried out within reasonable proximity to a vehicle, so it was easy to keep a cooler in the car and pump in there.  I could pump between field sites, while everyone was getting to vehicles and often breaking for a snack and water anyway.  For those wondering, I used a Medela pump, those things are efficient, and for the field they come with batteries and car plug adapters - woo hoo.  There are also small coolers that plug into car lighter ports, and those are nice to have for the milk if you have a vehicle (or even just a car battery) but not ready access to ice." - Anonymous 
  3. Great article about international fieldwork while pumping -
  4. Article about "(Re) productive fieldwork", including during pregnancy and while pumping.  Includes loads of good advice and relatable anecdotes.    "Milk, Guilt, and Turtles" -
  5. [Insert your story here :)]