The Brain Scoop:
Periods + Fieldwork

Wherein I answer one of my FAQs: what are some practical ways scientists manage menstruation while conducting fieldwork, oftentimes in remote locations, and for long periods (PUN) of time?! The information in this video comes from the first-hand experience of researchers, hikers, campers, explorers, wanderlust seekers, and yes, yours truly. We learned the hard way, so you don’t have to.

Happy exploring! 


London Fieldworks, Spontaneous City

Spontaneous City is one of these sculptural installations commissioned by Up Projects and created by London based artistic duo Jo Joelson and Bruce Gilchrist, known as London Fieldworks. Several Hundred bespoke bird boxes are carefully placed on two Ailanthus Altissima trees, also known as the tree of heaven and “aim to provide both a sculptural work to be enjoyed by the public and an architecture that would be accessible to the birds,” the artists explain. (via)

Can a zebra change its stripes?

While sketching zebras in Sudan, Abel Chapman (1851–1929) noted that his perception of stripe patterns changed. Depending on distance and the angle of light, a zebra’s stripes could even seem to disappear. This animated GIF is rendered from Chapman’s drawing for his book Savage Sudan (London, 1921). 

See today’s Smithsonian Snapshot for more, or visit the exhibition Color in a New Light, an exploration of the theme of color through the vast collections of the Smithsonian Libraries, including rare books and Trade Literature materials.

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!


Voltalab Sound Studios by Fieldwork

“We had the pleasure of developing the new visual identity for the studio. Inspired by the buildings rich heritage, we wanted to capture the energy of the space that created so many cherished and seminal records. Our challenge was to create an authentic brand that brought the old and the new together. We achieved this by blowing the dust off old recording equipment, cassettes, documents, gig posters, and photographs, allowing us to gather an array of rich resources that informed the overall brand aesthetic.”

Fieldwork is a design studio based in Manchester, UK. They make things a bit like they used to when they were kids. Sometimes they use paper, pens and glue, sometimes pixels, code and screens, other times motors, LEDs and wires. Building a reputation for collaborative experimentation with clients, through which they produce things that make a difference to their work.

I found this while perusing Facebook. (No actual source to attribute it to, unfortunately.) It’s a great reminder that culture is something so complicated and deeply personal, it’s not something to be borrowed or stereotyped. From an anthropological standpoint, all of the elements of deep culture, and many of the surface elements require fieldwork and integration into that culture to even partially understand them. 

Former Dancehall Queen Defends PhD Dissertation on ‘Pum-Pum Palitix’

Marlene ‘Done a Gyal’ Henry, the 2006 dancehall queen of Jamaica and Japan, successfully defended her PhD thesis in cultural studies. 

Her ethnographic study titled ‘Pum-Pum Palitix: the Blessing and the Curse’ is based on three years of fieldwork in one inner-city community that is not named. 

“I address pumpum politics frontally in this work. The vagina is a site for the construction and negotiation of female identity. We have to think the symbolism and prominence of the genitals in micro-level socio-sexual relations.”

Henry’s next project The Price of Pumpum will explore transactional sex and social mobility.


Equipment stolen by monkeys, shoes melted by hot lava, accidentally swallowing a fossil, being glued to a crocodile — when scientific research goes awry, you get a Fieldwork Fail.

Illustrator Jim Jourdane collects and illustrates stories of everyday failures from scientists working out in the field — biologists, archaeologists, paleontologists, volcanologists, entomologists, and more, from all different countries, studying on all continents — on his blog, Now, he’d like to publish these hilarious, quintessentially human stories in a book for all to enjoy.

“I love the idea of Fieldwork Fail because it shows us the human side of science,” Jourdane says. “A lot of fieldwork scientists will recognize themselves in these everyday mistakes.“ The book will also be a learning opportunity for non-scientists, he says, with extra facts, stories, and information from the scientists who contributed their fieldwork fails to the book. Learn more, and support the project, right here.


“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach him to fish and he will eat for life." 

By viewing urban farming and gardening as an educational opportunity we are hoping to provide a long term solution to the problem of food insecurity in urban areas. When people develop new skills they become actively engaged in the learning process. 

Through a combination of workshops and fieldwork, we hope to educate the citizen farmers and provide hands-on experience necessary for successful food production.