The glamorous life of a wildlife biologist September 22, 2017 10:20 AM   Subscribe

While following a troop of sooty mangabeys, monkeys found in the forests of Ivory Coast, Boston University primatologist [and MeFi’s own] Erin Kane walked face-first into a tree. Almost instantly, her eye became red, itchy and watery, but she went on following her monkeys. After about half an hour more of discomfort, she got nervous and asked her field assistant to take a look.

He found a tick embedded on the inside of Kane's eyelid.

"Poor Richard," Kane said of the assistant on that 2012 expedition. "He was also the person who squeezed botflies out of my armpit for me because I couldn't get the leverage quite right."

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a day in the life of a wildlife biologist.
posted by Johnny Wallflower to MetaFilter-Related at 10:20 AM (54 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

Oh man. And neat!
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:20 AM on September 22 [1 favorite]


Just here to say that if you don't know what botflies are and what it might look like to squeeze them out of someone's body NEVER EVER EVER EVER GOOGLE IT, just shut down your computer and walk away, it is the only option.

(Also this article is awesome, congrats, ChuraChura!)
posted by kate blank at 10:32 AM on September 22 [12 favorites]


I'm not sure I can read that article because maggots and leaches but.... YAY for ChuraChura! And to think I ate dim sum with her just last weekend. It's almost like I'm a wildlife biologist.
posted by bondcliff at 10:55 AM on September 22 [13 favorites]


😍 What a scientist! My crush on you, ChuraChura, just got deeper. Also: He was also the person who squeezed botflies out of my armpit for me because I couldn't get the leverage quite right." Best. Sentence. EVER. I knew you've had malaria but a tick on the inside of your eyelid?! blargh! I do not like ticks.

That's an awesome article, too! hahahaha that question that started it is a great question, and that leech-eyeball pic's just gloriously terrifying and yet cool at the same time.
posted by barchan at 11:14 AM on September 22 [4 favorites]


ChuraChura can even make a Johnny Wallflower animal post into something horrific.
posted by Etrigan at 11:23 AM on September 22 [22 favorites]


i like the implication that she was so enthralled by the monkeys that she walked into a tree bc really who amongst us has not done the same
posted by poffin boffin at 11:28 AM on September 22 [17 favorites]


squeezed botflies out of

That procedure takes Leafy boot straps.
posted by clavdivs at 11:37 AM on September 22 [1 favorite]


I'm so glad you're okay, ChuraChura! Or at least I assume you're okay because I think I am not going to go near that article.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:44 AM on September 22 [11 favorites]


> What a scientist! My crush on you, ChuraChura, just got deeper.

Me too! This is great - thanks for this meTa, Johhny Wallflower.
posted by rtha at 11:55 AM on September 22 [1 favorite]


This is both amazing and horrifying. Best of the web. :)
posted by Fizz at 12:02 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]


uh, don't click on the article if you don't want to see pictures. Lots of them. I'd love to read it because I'm sure it's really interesting, but I noped out of that tab after the eye photo.
posted by john_snow at 12:33 PM on September 22 [2 favorites]


Awesome!

(Fortunately, reading bad Victorian fiction merely produces mental pain.)
posted by thomas j wise at 12:33 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]


How cool!
posted by phunniemee at 12:57 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]


That is a super-disturbing article. Not sure how long it's going to take to get my shudder-reflex under control!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 1:03 PM on September 22 [5 favorites]


Oh my goodness! I can't believe I warrant a "Metafilter's Own!" Metafilter kept me sane for most of my fieldwork - text-only pages load more consistently than anything else in the rainforest - and so you have all been with me every step and parasite of the way, so thank you.

I've been told that I need to find leech-resistant pants for my upcoming Indonesian fieldwork, so if anyone has any ideas, let me know!
posted by ChuraChura at 1:08 PM on September 22 [48 favorites]


Yay! Good for you! All of this is horrifying! It makes me feel a lot better about that time I was like "you can stay with us but the air mattress is directly on the floor, is that okay?".
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:26 PM on September 22 [5 favorites]


ChuraChura can even make a Johnny Wallflower animal post into something horrific.

This is clearly a post by the Nega-Wallflower, and ChuraChura made it awesome!

I confess that primate science beats out library science when it comes to parasitical predators.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:48 PM on September 22 [2 favorites]


{adore}
posted by Dashy at 3:21 PM on September 22 [2 favorites]


I've been told that I need to find leech-resistant pants for my upcoming Indonesian fieldwork, so if anyone has any ideas, let me know!

may i suggest a self-contained wheeled conveyance somewhat like the popemobile
posted by poffin boffin at 3:23 PM on September 22 [16 favorites]


may i suggest a self-contained wheeled conveyance somewhat like the popemobile

Might I suggest a giant hamster-ball?
posted by Fizz at 3:32 PM on September 22 [3 favorites]


Might I suggest Warhammer 40K battle armor (armour)?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:48 PM on September 22 [4 favorites]


Wow, this is impressive!
posted by Fig at 3:54 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]


I've been told that I need to find leech-resistant pants for my upcoming Indonesian fieldwork, so if anyone has any ideas, let me know!

Not sure this is the right place to ask that question... isn't MetaFilter generally speaking anti-pants?


Also:

MetaFilter: loads more consistently than anything else in the rainforest
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:00 PM on September 22 [4 favorites]


For leech resistance: gaiters with a ~1" band of silicone around the outside upper portion.
posted by Drosera at 4:15 PM on September 22 [2 favorites]


Man. I generally don't squick out easily, but the notion of living at the bottom of the food chain in the tropics gets a swift nope-out from me. Kudos to you, ChuraChura, for doing important work and being braver than I.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:28 PM on September 22 [3 favorites]


isn't MetaFilter generally speaking anti-pants?

That's it! If pants aren't good enough, maybe anti-pants will do the trick!
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:35 PM on September 22 [2 favorites]


leech-resistant pants

Also GOGGLES BECAUSE OH MY GOD THE EYE LEECHES IN THE ARTICLE.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:06 PM on September 22 [5 favorites]


But did you know that not all leeches are aquatic, or that many of the species that inhabit southeast Asia can crawl across the ground and even climb trees in their quest for hot blood?

SALT THE EARTH. ALL OF IT.

That said, this is all pretty cool in its own au naturel sort of way.

I'm sure the IT folks I work with aren't really thinking of this sort of thing when they talk about "bot managers."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:11 PM on September 22 [5 favorites]


Awww, tree rats sound so cute.
posted by Literaryhero at 5:23 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]


The linked article is behind a paywall for me here in Canada. Halp?
posted by janepanic at 5:25 PM on September 22


I just spent five minutes alternately squealing "Eeeewwww!!!!" and laughing my ass off with horror. I doff my hat way, way off to you, ChuraChura, and your colleagues. Thanks very much! (I love science so much. From a safe distance.)
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 6:03 PM on September 22 [2 favorites]


So tonight, aside from learning that leeches are roaming the earth and not just the water, I learned what a sooty mangabey is. I also learned that "sooty mangabey" is fun to say out loud. I'm likely to spend the next few days mumbling "sooty mangabey" to myself for fun.

Thanks ChuraChura!







sooty mangabey heh heh
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:13 PM on September 22 [5 favorites]


leech-resistant pants

It was invented for the far north, not Borneo, but I'd be tempted to DIY one of these to teach the leeches a lesson.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:15 PM on September 22


I work for some scientists. Sometimes when they get to go cool places, I think "gee, I wish there was some fundable reason to take me." But this story fixes that!

Field scientists are the best employers, however, as long as they have the funding to pay you. I recommend them highly. Also, many of them are kind of...drinky, if you happen to like drinky people. Not always a lot of formality when one is working for field researchers.
posted by Frowner at 7:16 PM on September 22 [7 favorites]


janepanic, does this link work for you? If nor, paste the title into a search engine and try what comes back.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:16 PM on September 22


I recently went on a jungle hike in Malaysia's Taman Negara and can confirm those little threadlike worms waving sweetly at you as you walk past are in fact doing back flips to reach your ankles. I can also confirm that nothing will give you a full blown panic attack quite as quickly as looking down while waiting for your guide to hack through the undergrowth with his machete and seeing two dozen leeches flipping on your boots trying to make their way up your ankles.

Our guide said his preferred technique was to spray his boots and socks with the most vicious insecticide he could find (the sort used to destroy cockroach infestations) but he had a dozen or so by the end of the day as well.

Protip - spraying a leech attached to your skin with citronella will make it drop off nearly as quickly as spraying it with deet.
posted by tavegyl at 8:44 PM on September 22


Say what you like about Canadian weather but we don't have Bot Flies; Land Roaming Leeches; plate sized spiders; thumb sized poisonous hornets; or most of the other horrifying things that seem to be able to thrive in places without a decent winter.
posted by Mitheral at 9:05 PM on September 22 [9 favorites]


sometimes in the winter I wonder why the genus Homo ever left the tropical regions
then I remember the botfly
posted by Countess Elena at 9:34 PM on September 22 [3 favorites]


What a lovely collection of cringingly tactile stories, thanks for sharing both of you.

I'm not a biologist, and have only had ticks on eyelids and... nutsack.

My worst leech experience was when hiking in the picturesque Green Mountains in the Queensland hinterland. After a long morning's hike, my friend and I finally made it to the "Stairway Falls" - which were like literally a stair way in someone's house and thus totally anticlimactic.

Unperturbed, we plunged into the cool mountain stream and started clambering up the rocks. We were delighted that the waterweed covering them was not slimey but rather silky, and its tendrils felt amazing gently caressing us.

On standing up, my friend was like, "Oh, you got a little spec of something on your back, let me brush it off."

There was a pause, and then he said, "actually you're covered in them, must be some kind of seed or plant matter."

Another pause. "Actually, it's a leech.... they're all leeches. Dude... you're covered with hundreds of tiny leeches, get out of the water!"

Suddenly, the lacey tendrils seemed less alluring. Trying to get out of the waterfall and brush off dozens of leeches covering every part of our bodies. I have never wanted a salt bath so bad.
posted by smoke at 12:10 AM on September 23 [10 favorites]


Say what you like about Canadian weather but we don't have Bot Flies; Land Roaming Leeches; plate sized spiders; thumb sized poisonous hornets; or most of the other horrifying things that seem to be able to thrive in places without a decent winter.
'Twas early in the spring when I decide to go

For to work up in the woods in North Ontar-i-o;

And the unemployment office said they'd send me through

To the Little Abitibi with the survey crew

And the black flies, the little black flies,

Always the black fly no matter where you go;

I'll die with the black fly a-pickin' my bones,

In North Ontar-i-o-i-o, in North Ontar-i-o.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:38 AM on September 23 [7 favorites]


Thank you monkeytoes for the cut and paste and johnny wallflower for the alternate link!
posted by janepanic at 4:36 AM on September 23


Say what you like about Canadian weather but we don't have Bot Flies; Land Roaming Leeches; plate sized spiders; thumb sized poisonous hornets; or most of the other horrifying things that seem to be able to thrive in places without a decent winter.

A friend of ours returned from to his small town in northern Ontario from a trip abroad, carrying a passenger - a bot fly larva under his skin. He attended the local hospital for treatment, whereupon he became an instant celebrity among the staff and doctors as "the bot fly guy" since none of them ever seen a patient with one before.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:38 AM on September 23 [1 favorite]


MetaTalk: I have never wanted a salt bath so bad.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:56 AM on September 23 [2 favorites]


I recently went on a jungle hike in Malaysia's Taman Negara and can confirm those little threadlike worms waving sweetly at you as you walk past are in fact doing back flips to reach your ankles.

I may stay inside forever, which illustrates even more vividly to me how awesome ChuraChura is!
posted by corb at 9:12 AM on September 23 [2 favorites]


ChuraChura, glad you're okay. If you ever write a book about your experiences (please), sign me up for a copy!
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 9:04 PM on September 23 [2 favorites]


Say what you like about Canadian weather but we don't have Bot Flies; Land Roaming Leeches; plate sized spiders; thumb sized poisonous hornets; or most of the other horrifying things that seem to be able to thrive in places without a decent winter.

I don't know how far north ticks go but just north of the Milk River I had a horse throw me into a tick nest* and I came up covered in them and that was not very fun. Just saying don't get too comfy. But none of them in my eyes, blargh all over again. Blargh blarghy blargh.

*(This is something you definitely don't want to google because dogs.)
posted by barchan at 2:07 PM on September 24 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter: Blargh blarghy blargh.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:53 PM on September 24 [2 favorites]


Ya we got ticks here; and black widows, recluse spiders, rattlesnakes, and grizzlies. Maybe familiarity makes those things non horrifying.
posted by Mitheral at 6:53 PM on September 24


Now I'm positively rejoicing at the paper cut I got at work on Friday.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:27 PM on September 24 [1 favorite]


One of the researchers I work with occasionally gets helicoptered into remote Papua New Guinea to collect animals. He told me a while ago about the times he's gotten leeches in his eye-socket. That's times plural:

So the one time that it was near the front on the eyelid, like in the photo that's attached to the article, apparently that's okay because it's reasonably easy to get at them. But this other time the leech was too far in behind his eye to reach and there wasn't a doctor with them in the camp so he had to just live with it for about a week until he could get to a hospital/doctor. Apparently they get more wriggly at night and he could feel it as he was trying to go to sleep.

He's a lovely unassuming guy who discussed this in the same manner that other people would discuss things like catching a bus. I'm still upset that I know this and occasionally it comes back to me as I go about my day and it gives me the shivers.

Other researchers have told me the top tip of if there's three of you walking through tropical far north queensland jungles: you want to be first. Or at a stretch second. As the first person goes past it gets the leeches interested. As the second goes past they're en-route. The third person ends up wringing blood out of their socks.
posted by coleboptera at 11:49 PM on September 24 [6 favorites]


Could be worse. Could be Leishmaniasis. Don't google it.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:40 PM on September 25


Was "okay" with that, leotrotsky, until I saw the skulls. Mothershittin' donkeys, that's just not pleasant.
posted by barchan at 12:57 PM on September 25


You can call your book "Poor Richard's Tickeyenac"
posted by chavenet at 2:40 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]


Thank you for all that you do, ChuraChura.
posted by SillyShepherd at 3:27 AM on September 26 [1 favorite]


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