Shit. I had just inadvertently ripped the tail off the little rodent I was stuffing for my final project in Mammology. In this lab course I was introduced to an interesting group of scientists, who like plenty of other biologists I met, loved animals, but with one important difference: mammologists also loved stuffing them.
I was in the middle of extracting the tail vertebrae from a tiny vole, which is like a rounder version of a mouse, when the accident happened. The thing was, I had been given this particular vole from a collection of rodents trapped as part of a research project, but supplies had run out. If I wanted a vole with an attached tail, I’d either need to go find myself another live one, or draw on the sewing skills from my second major.
In addition to my biology major, which had gotten me into the amateur taxidermy business for the semester, I also completed a second major in theatre, where I focused on costume design. Running with theatre and biology crowds was sometimes like living in two separate worlds. On the plus side the biologists were wowed with my artistic abilities, although my aptitude was firmly in the “average” camp from a design perspective. Likewise, theatre kids were impressed that I had taken and passed organic chemistry. But most often, I was met by surprise or confusion that I was double majoring in two seemingly disparate subjects. The truth is that both majors required an attention to detail and creative thinking, just applied to very different challenges.
Back to my tailless vole. I knew there was no way that I would go out vole-hunting myself to collect another specimen; it was time for some sewing magic. I whipped out some needle and thread and with a few quick stitches and some sturdy knots my vole had all its appendages secured once again. My lab mates congratulated me for my stitching skills. When I shared my success with fellow costume shop workers, they were adequately grossed out. Most importantly, the professor grading our taxidermied critters was none the wiser about my tail mishap.
And people said that biology and theatre weren’t related.