Wednesday 15 July 2009

The Lot Of A Palaeontology Spouse

My former advisor used to spout an awful lot of drivel, but one thing I believed: he always said that geologists had the highest divorce rates of all the scientific professions. I'd love to see some statistics, but I think it comes down to a few key things - fieldwork, conferences and downright nerdiness.

And it can be hard on the spouses. So I thought it might be helpful for the other palaeo-spouses to see how my own husband deals with these issues.


He has never been on fieldwork with me. He has only ever spent one night under canvas, and that was in a friend's back garden five years ago. When I did the Ainsa fieldtrip, I left him with three frozen meals, and after that he decamped to his parents' house for the rest of the week. Since we've been holidaying together, he's had pretty much no input on location as it's either close to an SVP conference location or it's one of my field areas, and let's just say that the Peak District in December is an acquired taste:

Nevertheless, I have always managed to find something to keep him happy, and that's the key to success - make sure you take time out each day to do something your spouse really enjoys...


Paul has accompanied me to all but one SVP conference - he even went to a GSA once. This is A Good Thing as it's always nice to have someone who signed up for the whole "in sickness and in health" thing to hold one's hair back after an evening of "socialising".

Now, because most palaeontologists are old and male, most spouse activities planned by conference organisers are with old women in mind. You should have seen the look on Paul's face when I suggested he might like to go on the spouse visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Garden in Austin in 2007.

No, his needs are simple: coffee and wi-fi. He probably decimates the coffee supplies outside the conference halls each morning, and I think SVP will be able to use him as an instant indicator of whether their internet is working or not. And after hours he fits in so well with my friends:

He gets his social registration each year, so he gets a name badge and he loves to swap it at the end of the last night. He has been "Paul Anderson: Not the shit movie director", "Paulmela Anderson" "Paul AndersonUpchurch: ask me about Euhelopus" (the year my own supervisor didn't go to SVP) and frequently amends his institution to be the Kansas City Creationist College of Jeebus Studies. So including him in drinks and meals, allowing him to mock us a little bit and giving him something to do while I'm at talks has meant he looks forward to SVP each year.


Poor thing. He has to cope with so much. The lounge is full of dinosaurs, rocks, fossils and the like. One whole bookshelf is pretty much palaeontology books. Even the plants have to be dinosaur-related. How does he respond? Utter disdain. And a healthy interest in gargoyles.

I even walked in to "Theme from Jurassic Park" when we got married. On this front he just had to suck it up and accept that he was not going to change me.

Happy wedding anniversary darling. You're rawrsome.

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