Whether I like it or not, people (the public, colleagues, potential collaborators or consultees, conference coordinators, committees, students, prospective employers, etc.) are going to judge me to some extent on my appearance, and specifically on my manner of dress and personal presentation. Everyone has their own interpretation of professional style: it's normal at a paleontology conference to see someone in a suit and tie having a conversation with someone in khaki shorts and a T-shirt. From wool pants to sandals with socks, it's a matter of personal taste and comfort. Through many trials and countless errors, I've finally found what (I think) works for me in terms of conference-wear. Of course, just because I'm comfortable with it does not mean my style is immune to criticism: by dressing my body type and wearing skirts, am I trying to "use" my femininity? I like a nice pump: am I trying to get attention? There's a trace of make-up: just who am I trying to impress? Well, me, to be perfectly honest.
My personal philosophy on professional wear (conference, meetings, etc.) is that people are only going to respect me as seriously as I respect myself. I make sure I'm clean. I make sure my clothes are clean. I run a brush through my hair and over my teeth (not the same brush). For me, there are situations that are not appropriate for clothing that is stained, doesn't fit properly, or shows off Krakatoa.
|Yes, Krakatoa is a euphemism. Image source.|
I dress at conferences to best represent my institution and my profession: in short, to best represent Strange Woman the Professional. None of these considerations come into play with my field clothing. Stains, mismatched colors, baggy, torn...anything goes. I wear what it takes to get the job done, and get the job done safely. That is how I dress the Strange Woman of the Field.
I love attending conferences for which there is a field work component. The insights that exploring a new area can add to your observations of your home localities just cannot be beat. However, it does make packing (for me) a bit of a pain in the ass. Strange Woman of the Field and Strange Woman the Professional have two completely different clothing needs.
My first experience with packing for an international combined field trip and conference was Turkmenistan. Both Rich and I admittedly over packed because we had no idea exactly what type of field work would be expected of us. Turns out it was hiking to see sites and no rigorous field documentation, so we didn't need half of the equipment we brought. We have since learned how to better streamline our suitcases, but Rich admits that he is glad he is not a woman when he sees the "extras" that I feel I have to bring.
I realize that all this could be avoided by just saying "I don't give a Flying Spaghetti Monster what people think of my clothes" and just wear my stained field shirts, latex and silicone coated pants, and dusty old hiking boots for every occasion. I'm a field person, after all! Strange Woman of the Field and Strange Woman the Professional are both part of what I do as a scientist. Both do what they do best when they feel (and that's the key word - feel) appropriately attired. Would I show up to a job interview in a sweat-stained tank top and my clunky logging boots? No more than I would hang off of ropes on a vertical tracksite wearing my Fluevogs and a pencil skirt.
|The perfect footwear for scaling a 50 degree slope 60m off of the ground, right? Nope. Conference shoes are not field work shoes.|
Strange Woman the Professional/Shaman of the Field, the Carry-On Bag:
My carry-on bag contains all of those items that would physically stop (or at least delay) my being able to hit the ground running with field research or conference activities. This is where the two Strange Women share the packing duties. The carry-on bag doubles as my day pack for the field.
- Computer and computer cord, with power cord in an easy to access section of the bag (for airport security)
- Travel external hard drive
- Wireless mouse
- Digital camera
- Hand held GPS
- Digital calipers or measuring tape (Side note: when flying through the US, I was pulled aside at security because of the digital calipers and was asked if they were a dangerous weapon. I responded with "Only if I can measure something to death." Not smart. Don't sass airport security. My only excuse was that I was tired after a long flight and my mental filters were not working as they should.)
- Rite-in-the-Rain field book with writing instrument (I doubt that I will ever give up hand-written notes)
- Plumber's soapstone pen and soapstone sticks
- Brunton compass
- Photo scales
- Angle-o-meter (my name for the device that takes any angle data on tracks)
- Mini flashlight (once the paper on this site is out, I have a lovely story on how, for the lack of one flashlight, I did an unplanned overnight in the field in November)
- Cell phone
- Travel medicines, travel documents, toothbrush, one change of base layers, sunglasses, headphones, neck pillow
The checked luggage is where the different research needs become the most obvious.
Strange Woman of the Field, the Suitcase:
This half of the suitcase is reserved for all the field gear that I would need for a week to a month or more of continuous field work. Most of this clothing also doubles as tourism clothing (except for my pants - I'm hard on pants).
- Two pairs of synthetic fabric pants (wear one, wash one)
- If it's the right season, two sets of thermal undies (one washed, one being worn)
- One pair of non-field pants/capris
- Two to three light, long-sleeved button shirts
- Four sets of synthetic base layers, including socks (one washed, one drying, one being worn, and a spare - the spare is very important)
- Two wide-strapped tank tops (for under the long sleeved shirts)
- One wide-brimmed hat
- Two bandanas
- Small binoculars
- Toilet paper (I learned this one the hard way)
- Rain gear
- Field knife
- Hand lens
- First aid kit
- Personal grooming items
- One pair of steel-toed, Kevlar woven logging boots, or for non rugged terrain, non-TSA friendly hiking boots.
Strange Woman the Professional, the Suitcase
Conference and business meeting clothing. Mix and match is the key for me, and nothing that would have caused my Granny and Aunt Molly comment "Hello, Sailor!" This is for a four-day conference, plus any unexpected side meetings. For only one or two professional meetings, one outfit plus an extra shirt would suffice.
- One pair nice shoes (either the shoes pictured above or the ones I show in this post)
- One knee-length skirt and/or one pair of dress pants
- Two to three lace shells that can go under dress shirts
- Two dress shirts
- One suit jacket
- A couple of finishing pieces (a bold pendant, a silk scarf, etc.)
- Hair clips
- Heavy tracing plastic and permanent markers
- Duct tape
- Archive-grade, low ammonia latex, or, platinum-cure silicone
- Fiberglass and resins (or plaster) for mould support jackets
- Chalk (for outlining footprints)
- Brushes, for cleaning a track surface and for making moulds
- Hammers, chisels, and other digging tools
- Climbing gear and rope
- Bulk food and water for the crew
If you have any clever travel hacks to share (or horror stories), I'd love to hear them!
Back to being desk-bound: paper reviews, proofs, and revisions all decided to appear in my inbox this week.