An Open Letter to Rodent Behaviorists...

Oct 24 2011 Published by under Academia

But especially to the new students and postdocs who don't yet really know what's up,

You know that delicious scent you just bought? That nice perfume? That neat smelling shampoo? That cool new deodorant or body spray?

Guess what? I can smell it. And so can the rodents.

By now, young students, you may be experienced enough to have seen a rodent brain or two, and seen rodent behavior first hand, and you will have seen them sniffing around inquisitively, and you will have seen those GIGANTIC olfactory bulbs. You will have divined, from several tests in which the protocols note specific smells are used and the room has to be scented a specific way, that rodents might be sensitive to smell, and that they use it as a cue.

So if you know all this, and are so wise with your use of lemon scents and vanilla scents in various protocols...why, exactly, do you think that the rodent cannot smell YOU?! Especially when you, young student, are decked out in a panoply of smell that leaves the hallway scented with your products for 10 minutes after you've been in it. And if I can smell you, I can only imagine the poor rodents are about to pass out from your synthetic stench.

So here's some advice. Don't smell. I know you have no real choice in the matter, but if you're going to smell a certain way, it needs to be CONSISTENT. Get a shampoo, conditioner, lotion, what have you, and DO. NOT. CHANGE. I hope you like that new fall fragrance, cause you're gonna be wearing that shit until this ENTIRE experiment is through. By then we'll be in to winters, but you can just tell people you're retro. The best by far would be to not wear the dang stuff at all. But now you've done it, and the rodents know you. And the rodents will expect your smell. And in the interest of controlling as many variables in this experiment as possible, you're wearing that scent til the cows come home.

Just remember kids. If you can smell it, they can too. Save my experiments and leave your perfume at home.


5 responses so far

  • I'm a zoo docent. Same thing goes.

  • katiesci says:

    We always get a few giggles and weird looks when we tell the summer behavioral students that they're not allowed to wear perfume or cologne ALL SUMMER. I smile and chuckle about it but make it clear that we're DEAD SERIOUS. Don't be fucking up my data with your stank, UGs.

  • ItchyNeuron says:

    I've had to explain this to my very non-scientist wife before when she's bought me cologne as gifts. It always smells nice and always ends up sitting buried in the closet.

  • marc says:

    I remember I possibly mythical story about a lab that got some amazing result with a hard to work with mammal, but couldn't come close to replicating. Figured out, that it only worked with one of the RAs and only sometimes for her. Eventually they figured out that it was her hair conditioner. The animals liked the smell, and behaved differently on days she'd used it.