A day in the life of a zoologist. By Caroline Airson, July 2015
Dark, dirty, not as cute as you’d expect; Caroline tries to educate us on the world of a zoologist. And it’s got nothing to do with taming tigers or hugging trees…
Before I start, no I don’t work in a zoo, look after sick kittens or work in conservation. Zoologists like pay checks that are enough to cover food and rent too. I arrive on site for 8am (we almost match construction workers’ hours – when they work, we work, when they rest, we work) to complete a destructive search (I told you we weren’t all cutesie.) Finding myself eyeballing an excavator driver, telling him I am not moving from in front of the digger bucket, and that yes he must do what I want him to is nothing new. Neither is being the only female in a 2km radius, and clearly the first to stand in front of said excavator with a face set to ‘don’t mess.’
Next stop: a tiny site in the middle of a housing estate. A lot of people think my job with animals must be mucky, but compared to an earth-covered mole or a damp newt, humans are another level of minging. Vinyl records, knicker elastic, human excrement, toys, mattresses, condoms, shoes (always shoes) and lager cans are seemingly requisite on many such a site. But hunting around in the undergrowth for signs of Mr Badger turns it into a fun foray through dangerous wilderness, rather than a judgemental stroll through a rubbish tip.
Ah dusk: a zoologist’s bread and butter, our time to shine (a torch.) Our adoration of all things creeping, slithering, crawling and flying compels us to work from dawn till dusk and dusk till dawn, because fabulous things come out at night. I may be looking for newts or bats, but that doesn’t stop me being wowed by a baby deer I’ve startled, a disgruntled badger bodgering around, Mrs Hedgehog pegging it down a lane or Mr Fox seeing what I’m about.
There are downsides, and people have no clue what I do for a living. My brother for example thinks I ‘bother creatures’ (he’s pretty close), and we get made-up sounding qualifications. I for example, am licensed to hold a newt, and it took a lot of very hard work to get here. However, our upsides are beyond comparison if you are into critters, plus we have some of the darkest humour I’ve ever come up against, and when we are so tired we hallucinate (actual thing), we see animals. …fish on a lorry was my last one.
I get dirty, I get soaked, I get yelled at and I make large men bend to my iron will, all to protect a small number of our native critters – and I bloody love it. Just don’t mess with a zoologist, they know where to get some pretty minging stuff, and they aren’t afraid to use their knowledge of poisonous plants. So be nice. And quiet… this zoologist is sleeping.