We are Mini and Gideon, wildlife biologists, who take our toddlers with us to work in remote rainforests: Ask Us...


**My short bio:** We are Mrinalini and Gideon Erkenswick Watsa, and we are wildlife biologists who do research for several months a year in the Peruvian Amazon. 17 months ago, we had twin boys, and we were faced with a choice – keep being wildlife biologists with intensive fieldwork requirements or to give it all up and keep the boys home. We chose to keep going! Our twins have been to two field seasons, their first at 7 months and their second by age 1. They’ve taken over 20 airplane rides and have visited 3 countries. They’ve spent 2 weeks in the Indian Western Ghats and 5 weeks at a remote site in the Peruvian Amazon. Just after they turn two, they will have completed two more field station visits. Can you be a field scientist and a parent simultaneously? We think so. Ask Us Anything!

Field Station Amenities: No electricity, except for 3 hours a night via generator, but we did have mosquitoes, botflies and chiggers. Laundry done by hand, but help with basic meals provided. The twins were still on formula at the time.

1:00 PM Update: Thank you all for your incredible questions and interest and support. That was a little scary! I’m tuning out for the moment (the twins await) but I’ll be back to check these questions later today, so keep them coming if you have them!

**My Proof:** See our professional websites: https://miniwatsa.com:Mini’s website and https://gideonerkenswick.com: Gideon’s website. We both work for https://fieldprojects.org: Field Projects International as instructors and senior research scientists (see our bios at: https://fieldprojects.org/faculty/mini-watsa/ and https://fieldprojects.org/faculty/gideon-erkenswick), taking our children with us to the following remote field stations so far: https://fieldprojects.org/field-site/cicra-2/: Los Amigos Biological Field Station, Peru and https://fieldprojects.org/field-site/fringe-ford/: Fringe Ford, India. One of the twins is napping, so here is our IAMA proof picture with the other twin! https://fieldprojects.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/84f7cf82-041f-4cf9-b938-34f32d2dd29b.jpg



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29 Comments

  • Why not invest in an off-road RV and just become the Wild Thornberrys already?

  • What is your plan for when they need to start school? Are they currently able to interact with other kids?

  • How do you keep all the bitey things off your kids?

    What are your and their favorite wildlife (s)?

  • Have there been any moments where you were worried about the kids’ safety?

  • What would you do if your kids said they didn’t want to do this anymore?
    i mean a lifestyle like this must be tremendously stressful for a kid

  • What kinds of vaccinations do your kids get? Do they need extra inoculations depending on where you’ll be visiting? Oh, and how do you keep them from eating poisonus plants and insects?

    We live in a city with our almost two year old son and we’re constantly supervising him, can’t imagine how you two do it with two kiddos in the wilderness, mad parent respect,
    yo 😂

  • What do you do about childcare? Do you alternate between each other, hire caretakers, or some mix?

  • Have you noticed any changes in your kids that may not have occurred otherwise, like preferring different foods or picking up foreign words?

  • I am 17 years old and am going to study forestry. Your job sounds absolutely incredible! If I am completely willing to live in a third world country and study nature (which I am), how difficult will it be to get a job like that? Does everyone in your profession aim to land a job like that?

    By the way, it’s great that you take your children with you on your travels. My family went to Ethiopia 5 years ago, and we met a British couple who were afraid to have kids because they travelled so much. My family actually made them change their mind, after they saw us.

  • How do you deal with the times between expeditions? Is it hard to switch back to a more normal, maybe mundane life?

    What do you do if one of your boys develops a serious medical condition while you’re on your fieldwork?

  • Serious question: Are you concerned about yourselves or your child contracting a rare and/or deadly disease from from rain forest? Do you get special innoculations to prevent that?

  • How did you two meet each other?

  • I’m considering going into biology, and I’m currently researching different fields, but I know for sure I want to be in science and research. I’m more interested in evolutionary/molecular biology, but the idea of working on the field as a large part of my job is attractive. What do you actually do as a wildlife biologist? What’s your favorite and least favorite part of the job? What scientific acomplishment are you the most proud of?

  • What (if anything) inspired you to become biologists? Also, will you continue to take them with you as they grow up?

  • Have you ever had to fight off a yeti or Sasquatch that was trying to steal your trail
    mix?

  • Don’t indigenous tribes live in those forests and have for thousands of years? They would have to live with their children there *all the time*, right? I suppose it is mildly interesting you take your toddlers with you but it smacks of smugness to me.

  • Since you worked in the Western Ghats, what’s you assessment of the state of overall biodiversity in the Ghats? What do you see as the main threat to the environment besides population and urbanization?

  • I personally view pay to play field work as becoming a large problem for maintaining a diverse researcher pool in wildlife conservation.

    Did you guys catch this article? If so I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

    https://news.mongabay.com/2017/08/a-rich-persons-profession-young-conservationists-struggle-to-make-it/

    Edit:

    I also wanted to add that to anyone potentially considering a career in wildlife or forestry that you should never feel like you have to pay someone to do field work. Start your search at USAJOBS or the Texas A&M wildlife jobs board where you can find all sorts of job postings with varying level of back ground requirements.

  • With being so dedicated to rainforests, do you all follow a plant based diet as well? If so, is it viable in remote locations? Do you depend on self foraged food at times, and what is your unexpectedly favorite foraged food

  • Do you ever feel like a live action version of The Wild Thornberrys?

  • Users, please be wary of proof. You are welcome to ask for more proof if you find it insufficient.

    OP, if you need any help, please message the mods [here](http://www.reddit.com/message/compose?to=%2Fr%2Fiama&subject=&message=).

    Thank you!

    *I am a bot, and this action was performed automatically. Please [contact the moderators of this subreddit](/message/compose/?to=/r/IAmA) if you have any questions or concerns.*

  • Why do you take them with you?

  • Hi! I am a female masters student currently training in tropical ecology. I really hope to have kids one day and continue with my field research career. I really admire that you have been able to do this with your kids. I met another couple with a toddler when I was in Madagascar for a field season, and he was the brightest kid that I have ever met in that age group. I hope you don’t mind if I bombard you with questions! I have read all about Jane Goodall and Meg Lowman and how they managed to raise their kids while still becoming scientific greats, but I have always wanted to ask someone more about the particulars:

    (1) Do you have pets and who takes care of them when you are in the field?
    (2) Are there ever times where only one of you is in the field? Who stays home with the kids?
    (3) With Zika being a big issue now in South America, did you have to stay home during your pregnancy?
    (4) (this might be a little personal) I know that I have family and friends who think that I am a little nutty for taking myself places with vector-borne diseases and venomous snakes. I can almost guarantee the push-back would be bigger if I was taking a child. Have you had anyone be critical of your choice to take the kids, and how did you deal with it?

    I know that is quite a lot of questions, so please feel free to pick ones to answer! Thank you!

  • What did you study in college? Any advise for others following this career path? What are the pros and cons of this lifestyle?

  • I think your kids are amazing, smart and very lovable, and I envy their childhood, it’s awesome!! (I cannot wait for them to be able to chat)
    Are the boys still dancing to colombian reggaeton? Have they started talking more?? (what words??) If you had to choose one thing that is absolutely neccessary to bring to the field stations for your kids, what would it be?

  • Hi just wanna say super cool to see someone in your field post on Reddit, it’s super exciting!

    I’m currently a freshman in college right now majoring in wildlife/conservation biology. My dream is to work for the WWF and be able to travel the world working with and researching animals. I’d like to know is there any advice you would have for me in terms of courses I should take, organizations to get involved with, and how realistic my dream is? I know people in our field don’t tend to make much but if I’m able to travel the world and do conservation work that’d make me one of the happiest people in the world.

  • How much bug spray would you say is normal to venture into the jungle with? 55 gallon drum of pure deet?

  • What do you do with all your rescues while you’re away? My ideal future involves animals and travel both but it seems nearly impossible sometimes!

  • Can you be our Unidan?

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