New book highlights scientific Fieldwork Fails that are often quite amusing

Emily Lipstein, writing for Gizmodo Australia reported the following:

After long years of research, your efforts have paid off: the archaeological site you’re digging in has turned up a stash of rare, striking bones, no doubt the beginning of a groundbreaking discovery. Only then, you find the KFC wrapper, revealing that this “ancient burial ground” is just the leftovers of someone’s lunch.

In the summer of 2015, scientists on Twitter started describing research mishaps like this — which happen more often than you’d think — as “fieldwork fails.” The #fieldworkfail hashtag went viral, and two years later, it’s getting an encore in a new book by French illustrator Jim Jourdane  (available for pre-order later this year), thanks to his blog and a successful Kickstarter campaign.

As Jourdane reveals in Fieldwork Fail, things often don’t go as planned in science. The book contains fieldwork mishaps from the fun and harmless, like realising the “bat” you thought you were tracking was actually a crosswalk signal, to the more dangerous, like peeing on a jaguar’s marked tree and getting stalked through the jungle for three weeks. It’s a great starting point for scientists to communicate some of the less-sexy aspects of their work.

This is a book I’ll definitely be adding to my wish list.

Here’s three examples of my own fieldwork fails:

  1. During an investigation of a home owned by a judge who was also the lead plaintiff in a construction defect lawsuit, a tool on my tool belt just barely touched the judge’s glass desk as I was walking by. The judge’s wife heard the sound, ran into the room and sure enough, she found a less than 1/16″ mark in the glass surface. The cost of replacing the top was deducted from my pay, and I kept the original in storage for more than 15 years, before deciding the piece was too tacky to make into a desk for myself.
  2. Representing the country’s largest homebuilder in a highly contentious case in Nevada, I unfortunately had to skip the inspection of several homes due to contracting swine flu. The worst part was trying to drive home 5 hours with an extremely high fever. The best part was that once I got home, there was a Mad Men marathon going on that I thoroughly enjoyed over the next week it took for me to recover.
  3. I was making a cut in the drywall below an electrical panel at a condo unit that was part of a major claim against the builder. I needed to expose wiring below the panel to be inspected by about a dozen experts and the attorneys they worked for. Just as the team of experts walked into the door to start taking their pictures, my blade went through the electrical main, causing a short that shut down power to the entire building. Oh yeah, and it also disintegrated most of my blade, and the surge of electricity through my body knocked me out and caused my heart rate to go crazy for a couple hours.