Getting Ready for the Field: Things to Pack!!!

Field Work in the Tropics

How to Pack like a Primatologist

What’s in Your Field Bag?

Extreme Weather (Cold)

You Don’t Wear Sweaters to the Desert

10 Tips for Surviving Anthropological Field Work

More Tips from Kris: 

1. You know those waterproof notebooks? Everyone I’ve talked to that have also used them agreed that while they’re great, you really have to press down hard on them sometimes. So, to save money, just buy a gallon size clear plastic bag and write your notes in it that way. It is inexpensive and it still keeps your notebook dry.

2. Boots. Not just the nicer hiking boots, but buy decent rainboots. You’re not gonna buy them for the rain — you’re buying them for the extra protection against snake bites. You won’t regret it.

3. Binoculars are great. Cameras are great. But make sure you play with it before you go to the field. Also, there are different kinds of binoculars and you should spend time looking into what kind of binoculars you want/need. Sometimes, you’ll find yourself with three different binoculars around your neck because they all have different magnifications. 

4. Army surplus stores are actually a great place to buy clothes. Obviously, do not buy army fatigues… but standard khakis and solid color clothes there (mainly pants) are great because they are made to be durable and able to withstand extreme weather.

5. There are also special sleeping bags for the tropics. 

6. Don’t underestimate the power of zipblock bags. And tarp. And carabiners. And duct tape. They can literally solve anything problem.

7. For tropical environments, put all your electronic equipments in a waterproof container. It’d be cool if it’s something you can lock in case of theft.

8. The ever important 3-2-1 back up strategy. Create three copies of your data, in twodifferent media, one of which is off site. You do not want to go out into the field and lose everything. You do not. And when you’re going through airport security, put your data and fieldnotes all on your carry on. You don’t want customs to lose your hard work. 

9. People like to bring comfort food… which is something you’re going to love/miss on the field. Trust me, if you’re out there in the middle of no where for five weeks, you’ll do anything for that person who gives you a piece of chocolate or a spoon of peanut butter.

10. I’ve learned that having pictures of family and friends that you take out and show people help them trust you better. I usually make up stories of family, but hey, it works. Family at places are really important and, especially if your research requires the aid of people, gaining their trust is important. Oh and bring culturally relevant gifts. Even a pencil with your institution’s name on it is great (and be mindful of status and rankings).

Happy fieldwork!

Driftwood archaeology screen!

What do you do when your site location is so remote that every bit of equipment-weight equals thousands of dollars in transportation costs? Well, you build everything that you can while on site, with nearby materials, of course! I built the actual screens back at the shop in town at Inuvik and then we use some of the copious Mackenzie driftwood to assemble the tri-pods.


Field Journal: Chief Paul and the Volcano

Brian Smith, assistant curator in the Department of Ornithology, is blogging from southern Melanesia, where his team is conducting an inventory of birds on a month-long Constantine S. Niarchos expedition.

New day, new adventure on a new island: Gaua Island. There is an active volcano on Gaua surrounded by a lake with large tracts of continuous forest—a prime spot to study birds.

When we flew in, we were fully prepared to wait a long time to catch a ride on one of the island’s few trucks. After a few hours, a man with a Popeye-like physique crossed the grass runaway and introduced himself to each of us as Chief Paul. He would serve as our guide on Gaua Island for the coming week.

Head over to the Museum blog to learn more about the expedition’s minor setbacks, and hitting an “ornithological goldmine.”

My pre-fieldwork checklist to make my post-fieldwork life better.

So I have this checklist of things that I consider essential field trip prep because it makes my life when I get back from the field so much better and relaxing.

  • Clean your house. 
    • Cause coming back from being dirty all week/weekend to a clean environment boosts your mood like crazy
  • Buy a 6-pack of your favorite beer and stick it in the refrigerator before you leave
    • Beer-showers are a must for me when I get back from the field (a.k.a I take my shower to scrub off all that grit and I drink a beer while I do it 10/10 would recommend)
    • Plus you know you’re gonna want to just relax with a cold beer after anyways
      • Exception to this being that your field area allows you access to a favorite beer. Buy that shit, and buy a lot while you are out. (I’m looking at you Mammoth Lakes Brewing Co. Epic IPA. Thanks for making my beer shower yesterday the best one yet) 
  • Fill up your water pitcher and put it in the refrigerator 
    • Cause although you wish you could only drink beer, you’re probably dehydrated as fuck and having cold, crisp water at hand is fucking excellent.
  • Lay out your most comfortable clothing/favorite relaxing outfit 
    • So you know it’s not dirty cause it may have made it with you on the trip
    • And after a beer shower, clean, comfy clothes are fucking amazing 
  • Take out the fucking trash
    • Just do it. Smelly homes are no bueno to come back to.
  • Make your bed with clean sheets 
    • Oh boy clean, crisp, not yet sweated-out sheets after a sleeping bad for days. You all know you love it. 

Archaeologists dig in for better rates of pay

  • by Noel Baker

“Archaeologists have formed a trade union grouping amid concerns that some highly qualified people are working for pay rates not much above the minimum wage — or in some cases, for free.

Contract archaeologists, who mostly work in the private sector, have joined trade union Unite in an attempt to convince archaeological consultancies to sign up to a standardised pay agreement that would protect wage levels.

The move comes after what the chairman of the new branch, Matt Seaver, described as “an apocalypse” in the sector. The union grouping comprises approximately 60 contract archaeologists — around half the total number of contract archaeologists working on projects here.

That is down from more than 800 at the height of the boom, with Mr Seaver claiming many archaeologists have “thrown their hat” at the profession or have emigrated.

According to the union, site assistants are typically the people tasked with excavating and recording during digs and some are being paid between €9.50 and €10 an hour, in what the union has termed “poverty pay”.

“There has been such a draining out of archaeologists that very few people are prepared to tough it out,” Mr Seaver said. “In its current form it is unsustainable for a lot of people.” He said the reduction in positions available as well as the tumbling rates of pay had meant many highly qualified archaeologists had moved on to other professions, or had emigrated, with some Irish people working on projects elsewhere such as the Metro in Copenhagen in Denmark.

report by the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland published earlier this year claimed there were 82% fewer archaeologists than in 2007 and that low pay and the excess costs incurred by staff in moving to new places of work meant commercial archaeological work was unsustainable.

It also stated that site assistants can typically work less than 20 weeks a year and that less than half of all archaeologists across a number of positions worked most of the year. That report also recommended an agreed system of subsistence rates be implemented for all archaeologists depending on distance from place of work and costs incurred.”

(Source: Irish Examiner; bottom image: The Journal)


These are some of the photos I took during one of our field works in a major subject. We had to interview all the farmers in a small (and a little far-flung) community. To reach one of the places, we had to cross various rice fields just be walking on ditches (last photo). It was fun, the place was beautiful, and the farmers were very kind. I learned a lot.

This is not the only field work I’ve been too, though. There are a couple more communities that we have to cater to for different subjects. However, in each one, it’s still the same: we meet different types of people with different backgrounds and we get to talk to them about their community. Also, if they permit— we talk to them about their hopes, worries and plans in life.

That’s the best part for me— knowing these people and learning from them. The simplicity of their lives take my breath away. Each time, I am reminded that God made life pretty diverse; not just in an ecological sense. Each person created is different; we can never truly judge and claim to fully understand one another without interacting (or having fellowship) with each other.


Fieldwork Journal: Off to Vanuatu to Survey Birds

For the next month, Brian Smith, assistant curator in the Department of Ornithology, will be blogging from southern Melanesia, where his team is conducting an inventory of birds on a month-long Constantine S. Niarchos expedition. 

From Smith’s first blog post: 

Because of a long-term focus on cataloging the biodiversity of the Southwest Pacific, the Solomon Islands and Fiji have been relatively well sampled in recent decades, whereas intervening regions, such as southern Melanesia, are under sampled. 

That’s why we’ll be inventorying the birds on three to four islands in Vanuatu in the coming weeks, collecting voucher specimens with genetic samples, and recording bird vocalizations. These specimens will help unify the Museum’s extensive collection from the Whitney South Seas Expedition with modern genetic samples, and we’ll be able to use these specimens to better understand the evolutionary history and biogeography of the Southwest Pacific birds.

Read the entirety of Brian Smith’s first post and stay tuned for more updates!