Let’s start off this list with Pee. In. My. Face.
The Chinese collector folks brought a big cage with a *ridiculous* number of 5-toed jerboas this morning. They are apparently far more plentiful and easier to catch. Unfortunately, they were more plentiful last night than in the area they went the night before when they brought me 3/5 that were pregnant with nice stages, but this time I wound up with only 6/55 with anything useful. Most were either just about to give birth or already had. So I think what makes the biggest difference is the local population size (the probability of them having met a mate early in the season). When they change to a new location to make more money, it affects my harvest rate. Bummer. But further validation of my base rate plus “perfect embryo bonus” pay structure, so I can now convince them to go back to the other place even though it’s a little more difficult.
Anyway, back to the hazards. There were a lot of males in this batch, because it is much harder to distinguish male from female in this species. Since I am only paying for the females, I had to check and sort each one. By much harder, I mean that in both species the junk is all internal. With the 3-toed jerboas, you can tell without too much difficulty by the anogenital distance (further apart in males than in females). That’s much smaller in the males of this species. So with these guys the best way to tell is to press down on either side to make the business bits pop out. I’ve done this also with the 3-toed guys and met with no great peril other than an attempted bite of my well-protected hands. So I was inspecting one of the animals who turned out to be male, out popped his penis…and a very thin but highly pressurized fountain of urine sprayed across my chin and thankfully (barely) missed my mouth. This happened a couple of times (second time across my shoulder since I quickly learned to aim away from my face). There was also the one that launched herself out of my hand and scurried under the fume hood. The guy who had delivered the animals though this was all the most hilarious show.
Up to this point I had thought it was bad enough that I have to swat away mosquitoes while dissecting if we’re working into the evening. And all along I’ve had to maintain my ninja-like skills of crushing the errant flea who tries to make an escape for a warmer body. Add to that the mental health burden of feeling like an executioner each day going through more and more animals. I keep telling myself that this will set up the next 2-3 years of my career, and if I were to spread this out over that amount of time, it would be no different from the number of mouse dissections I do. But it’s much more challenging when it’s compressed into two weeks of intense work.