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Dude, who moved my lizard shit?

This has nothing to do with China, but if you’ve ever worked/lived/suffered in academia, then this story is more than just a humorous anecdote from the trenches of scientific inquiry…rather it’s a wonderfully succinct and painful metaphor about our labors of love and the the grail of academic validation.

From the Chronicle News blog:

One Man’s Worthless Bag of Dung Is Another’s Priceless Research

Daniel Bennett has vowed to sue Britain’s University of Leeds for incinerating 77 pounds of feces he collected from the rare Bhutan lizard during seven years of doctoral research in the rain forests of the Philippines.

Writing in Times Higher Education, the biologist describes his horror upon returning to Leeds from his fieldwork on Varanus olivaceus, a relative of the Komodo dragon.

“I was surprised to find my desk space occupied by another student and to see that photographs of my daughter, my girlfriend and my favorite lizards had been removed from the wall,” he writes. “The laboratory space where my samples had been stored was empty. Irritation turned to fear as I realized that my personal effects had been carefully stowed in boxes, but there was no sign of my 35-kilogram bag of lizard shit. Fear turned to anger and bewilderment when I learned that my samples had been ‘accidentally’ removed from the lab and incinerated.”

The tree-dwelling lizard’s reclusiveness makes it difficult to study, he explains, so the fecal samples were invaluable. Nonetheless their destruction did not stop him from finishing his Ph.D.

The university offered him $700 in compensation 16 months after he filed his initial complaint, Mr. Bennett writes. He rejected it. A day later, his girlfriend of 10 years left him.

“People are rarely at their happiest when writing a thesis,” he says, “but I needed a waterproof keyboard to finish mine.” —Don Troop

And there you go.

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