“What Women in Science are Really Wearing These Days (Contrary to What Most ‘Women in STEM’ Posters Would Have You Believe Are Always Lab Coats) OR Things That I Have Actually Worn as an Actual Scientist Doing Actual Science,” by Sarah Totton

Sep 10th, 2019 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

1. Steel-toed rubber boots. Because nothing says “Thank god!” more than not breaking a toe as a cloven hoof stamps on your foot when you’re ankle-deep in cow manure.

2. Rain pants. For when it’s raining, and you have to work outside in the rain. All-day rain. Solid walls of rain. When-is-it-going-to-stop? rain. Never. It will never stop. Until you finish your work and go inside. Then it will stop, and the sun will come out, taunting you because you have to stay inside re-organizing the sample tubes in the lab freezer.

3. Hip waders. For when you’re hip-deep in water, trying to catch salamanders.

4. Chest waders. For when you’re chest-deep in water, because, gee willikers, those salamanders can swim.

5. A white bucket hat. To keep the rain off your face. Also the sun. And spiderwebs. And caterpillar tents. And if you’re out canoeing and a windstorm blows you onto an island, stranding you there all night, everyone at the research station will forevermore call you ‘Gilligan’. You will become a research station legend and pointed at as a warning to “Never go canoeing alone.”

6. A mosquito hat. Do not for one moment allow yourself to believe that this will protect you from blackflies. It will not. The blackflies will fly in through the holes in the mesh and become trapped inside the hat with you, where they will bite out chunks of your flesh, fly up your nostrils and ping-pong around your ear canals until you can hear their ghosts hours later, long after you’ve mashed them into paste.

7. DEET. Wear this and the blackflies will piss right off. And the mosquitoes. Wear this in a bar after a day in the field and the drunken rednecks will piss off as well. It’s win-win-win!

8. A toque. Because sometimes it’s cold outside, and you’re waist-deep in juniper bushes with a telemetry receiver and the weather has decided that the next item on the menu is freezing rain. Blowing sideways. With a side-order of wind-chill minus 20. Your ears will thank you.

9. A radio telemetry receiver (see above). When you don’t have the budget for GPS. Comes with a handy strap for wearing over the shoulder. Or off-the-shoulder when you have to change sides because it’s so geezily heavy you are in danger of developing scoliosis. Also comes with a Yagi antenna for picking up radio signals or jousting with the local wildlife that gets too curious.

10. Coveralls. For those days when you want to look really unstylish when you’re shoving your arm up a cow.

11. A necropsy apron. Protects against escaping liquids, gases, and solids. Remember, folks: just because it’s dead doesn’t mean it can’t still spray you.

12. Scrubs. For days when you want to look really unisexual while emptying a kidney bowl full of dog bile. Comes with an optional fur-repelling finish.

13. A consultation coat. For days when you need to look like you know what’s going on. (Jaunty, off-the-shoulder stethoscope not included.)

14. Ripped jeans and a ripped jean jacket. Because you’ve been live-trapping skunks and if you want to enjoy human company ever again, you’ll burn them after you’re done.

15. Business casual. For those days when you have to give the impression that you don’t spend your days covered in biological excretions.

16. Pajamas. Because you don’t have to dress up (or even get up) to do logistic regression analysis on your laptop.


Sarah Totton is a veterinarian and recovering zoologist. Don’t ask her what the grossest thing she’s ever seen is or, she will tell you, at length. Her work has appeared in Points in Case, Dog Versus Sandwich, and The Canadian Field-Naturalist. Several years ago, she won a Dishonorable Mention in the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest. She is not allergic to iguana snot or lemur fur.

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