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Nature of the Job

Biology is the science of life; living is automatic but life is complicated. So complicated that we needed to give the study of it a whole genre of inquiry and as living is remarkably uncomplicated. Life necessitated a highly obfuscated* scientific channel to be what it is without all the judgments that schlep along with life's built-in complications.

Despite the infinite systems of living that (probably) exist, there is no single, practical science of it**. Biology is the razor tip of an iceberg built up over centuries of natural inquisition, some questions about life's mechinations were answered, and others are methodologies elucidating their matter from the unfettered ore of ATP and the Higgs Boson. As biologists, this is where we find ourselves. If you are alive, you are living. Easy. Unlike the finer sciences of chemistry, physics, and the root of all understanding, maths, biology is messy and ornamented with complications of scale and circumstance. No one really knows what's going on or why until the subject is directly engaged with according to the time, place, history, and scale of the thing. We really supremely do not know what life is doing because life is an evolving expression of circumstances blinking back. It's not only the universe that will stare back at your prodding, it is all the ley lines that cross one another to drink sunlight and release electricity.

Wildlife biology embodies all of this. The finite details to the origins of the universe to the scat on a log! Admittedly, some skills were so intrinsic to survival in prehistory that their learning did not qualify as a vocation until food, shelter, and weather became negotiable fixtures of daily intercourse. Before there were coursework regimes it was all just navigating, foraging, sheltering, and medicine. Generally avoiding danger and maximizing the summers you would spend lounging poolside to a clean giardia-free water source, next to a pile of fiber-rich fruit, in a hammock woven of strands of bark sutured together with your own hair. Presumably. I count birds, so I would not be an expert of prehistoric recreation, though I have it on good authority that the basal desire to touch stuff and see what happens comes preloaded in our primate brains much like those AOL discs we used to get in the mail to access the internet.

Historically, wildlife science was the stuff of Aristotle or Pliny the Elder, who fathered studying plants and animals while notably attributing lunar worship to elephants. Modern landscapes feature less wilderness than Pliny likely would have envisioned, what with Artemis and her nymphs vying for a fight and the rest of civilization treating untamed wilderness like the dank and dripping death sentence it was before antiseptic. But today, we have job boards and consulting firms offering rich and fulfilling work in beautiful places for the folks who swim in wildlife biology gigs. We who work in wildlife biology interpret our profession differently, of course. There are the hours, the instability, the crucial importance, the 'where should I pee?' glance around the clearing as you check traps and process subjects. We are a breed of varied, unique, and glorious peoples scattered over the globe flashing mirror signals from mountains of paperwork and from beneath statistical programming code, thirsty for work. Sated in the pursuit.

That's just a nip, just a taste of what wildlifers hold as one more facet on the face of the interdisciplinary diamond denoted by the phrase, "Well, that's just the nature of the job." Some day I will produce a podcast of this title, or a book of interviews and humorous comic strips about surveys and sampling. In the digital, soy-based inked pages of that doorstop of a tomb will be interviews with other professionals who shared their stories. One day. Until then, be well, reader.

What is the nature of your job?

Let's art about it! Swap some pocket rocks.

*Obfuscated: clouded or unintelligible - like navigating the grocery store in a new town for the first time, biology is a wonky and deceptively labeled science.

**Only religions and philosophical schools and then there's P90X and whatever they're doing in the global ecovillage network.