Dr. Fern Greenleaf is sick and tired of being sick and tired. It’s 2 a.m., and this is her second month of doing the graveyard shift at an EPA lab. She remembers being so happy when her EPA bosses picked her to head up the study on how certain chemicals, called endocrine disrupting chemicals, could affect the health of people and other animals. What she didn’t count on was spending most of her waking hours working when everyone else around her was sleeping.
This much she knows about the ”disrupting” chemicals -- they’ve been disrupting her social life in a major-league way.
Fern sighs. It’s a big, important study, and if she plays her cards right and does the scientific breakthrough bit, that could be her ticket to – hey, a higher governmental salary grade, maybe GS-15. So here she is, dealing with estrogens, one of the many chemicals found in water. She knows they’ve been nailed as the culprit in feminizing male fish and frogs – yep, turning dude frogs into lady frogs. Problem is: If an environment ends up having way too many females and not nearly enough males, you bet that’s going to have an obvious impact on animal life – that’s the environmental angle.
Fern checks the tanks full of wastewater and frogs. Were the boys turning into girls, or what?
“Grock! Grock! Grock!” Fern put her hands over her ears to muffle the sound of legions of excited frogs. They sound masculine to her, she thought.
One of her department’s long-term goals is to gauge the impact of endocrine “disruptors” on humans, wildlife, and the environment. Basically, Fern’s bosses want to know how this endocrine chemical overload impacts the various parties tied to this environment. As part of that effort, one of Fern’s jobs is to identify new technologies that would remove estrogens and other chemicals from water.
That was fun. She had to make artificial wastewater, going so far as to add the various vegetation and other bits of organic matter that typically make up wastewater. Which is why she is spending her nights checking several wastewater tanks stinking up the lab. And why she conducts nightly feedings of noisy frogs. Gosh, they’re noisy. But boys will be boys, at least for now.
Fern glances up at the government-issue wall clock. It’s 3 a.m. The frogs are restless. She has five more hours to go on frog-watch duty. Then it’s back to her apartment where she’ll drift off to sleep, dreaming of frogs leaping over each other.
It’s all in a night’s work.