So you think your job is bad?

Whenever you think you have the worst job in the world, there’s a sure-fire antidote: check out Popular Science‘s annual listing of the Worst Jobs in Science.

Tenth on the list this year: whale-feces researcher. Rosalind Rolland, a senior researcher at the New England Aquarium in Boston, combs the Bay of Fundy looking for brown stains deposited by endangered North Atlantic right whales. Rolland can analyze the feces for pregnancy, hormones and biotoxins and examine the whales’ genetics. Who can poo-poo that?

Number nine: forensic entomologist, the folks who estimate how long a corpse has been dead by charting the life stages of the blowfly, for whom a corpse is an all-you-can-eat-and-lay-your-eggs-in buffet.

Buzzing along, we come to Olympic drug tester in eighth. At first blush, that may not seem all that awful, but blush again: as Popular Science puts it, “at the 2008 Beijing Games, dozens of officers at doping-control stations will watch jocks urinate into cups about 4,000 times over 21 days.” If they finger someone, millions of people hate them. If they miss someone, they’re berated as incompetent. No matter how you look at it, urine trouble.

Number seven is “gravity research subject.” Parents of small children see gravity research all the time, usually followed by bruises, band-aids and tears. But these gravity research subjects spend weeks in bed, heads titled down at a 6-degree angle, to mimic the restricted muscle use and increased blood flow to the head experienced by astronauts in orbit. For this, they earn $6,000–even though many of those aforementioned parents of small children might very well volunteer to spin 21 days in bed for free.

The sixth-worst job Popular Science lists is “Microsoft security grunt,” the people who toil to fix problems with Windows, Internet Explorer, Office and all the other Microsoft products. Says Popular Science, “It’s tedious work. Each product can have multiple versions in multiple languages, and each needs its own repairs (by one estimate, Explorer alone has 300 different configurations.)” If they haven’t already, these guys might want to check out the ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus.

Number five is “coursework carcass preparer.” My high school had a whole room in back of the lab filled with jars of pickled critters, none of which were ever taken out that I can recall, which makes me think they’re still lurking in a school lab somewhere. Nevertheless, some schools must use them, because there are whole teams of people who poison, preserve and bag those things. “Most of us enjoy the work,” says one coursework carcass preparer. Hey, free formaldehyde fumes! What’s not to love?

Fourth-worst this year is “garbologist” (someone who digs through garbage for scientific purposes as opposed to, say, fun), while number three is “elephant vasectomist,” an occupation that involves a dart gunner in a helicopter, a crane truck, a specially designed four-foot-long fiber-optic laparoscope attached to a video monitor, and a very long pair of scissors.

The second-worst job on the list is oceanographer, because it’s “nothing but bad news, day in and day out.” If we’re not careful, say oceanographers, humans could remake the ocean into an environment that requires a toxic-containment suit….

…in which case, recreational diving will rank right up there with the worst science job for 2007, “hazmat diver.” Hazmat divers wear fully-encapsulating drysuits, and swim inside nuclear reactors, through toxic spills of all descriptions, and even in…

Well, let Steven M. Barskiy, author of Diving in High-Risk Environments, describe it: “The worst was at a factory pig farm. A guy had driven his truck into the waste lagoon and drowned. Not only was it full of urine and liquid pig feces, the farmer had dumped all the needles used to inject the pigs with antibiotics and hormones in there.” A hazmat diver had to go in and retrieve the body.

So the next time you think your job resembles swimming in a sewer because of all the crap that comes your way, remember–for some people, swimming in a sewer is their job.

You’re not so bad off after all, are you?

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