March 8th, 2015

Remote field research in biology or earth/atmospheric sciences?

I am trying to figure out what kind of sciences that would be taught at Caltech, or a similar school, would involve field research in remote locations for weeks or months at a time for someone established in the field (not an intern). I think biology or earth and atmospheric science would be the most likely candidates in general, but I'm not sure about which specific fields this would be the case for. "Remote", in this case, means far enough out that you could not reach the person by calling them on their cell phone. (As someone from or involved with the university going up on the space shuttle would be big news, I have pre-emptively crossed off anything to do with cosmology; if there is some kind of field work work in that area that meets the above criteria without involving going into space, please feel free to include it.) Time is between 2006 and today.

Background:
Numb3rs fanfic with a gender-swapped Charlie. She's told her father Alan than she's pregnant, and that the father doesn't know yet because he's 'out doing fieldwork' and she can't reach him to talk to him privately; she doesn't know how long it will be before he's back. She won't tell her dad who the father is, but does let slip that the man is someone she met at work. Alan assumes, due to the combination of 'met at work' and 'fieldwork' that she's talking about some sort of scientist she met at CalSci (a fictional CalTech clone).

Knowing what kinds of sciences are taught there, Alan is going to make some informed guesses as to what field the man is probably in; he will later pass on to Don (his son and Charlie's brother) that Charlie's been seeing someone, and that he (Alan) think's he's an X, or maybe a Y (marine biologist or vulcanologist? Geophysicist or systems biologist?) Alan is familiar with what is taught at the university, so he could make fairly good educated guess. Charlie has actually been quietly seeing Ian Edgerton, an FBI sniper and tracker who is currently hunting someone out in an unspecified wilderness area, but she does not want to tell that to her pacificst father until she's had a chance to speak with Ian.

French language: phrase with region-dependent alternate meaning

Hi all,

I desperately need a French language consultant to help me hash out a fairly important plot point in the story I'm writing. Specifically, I need someone who lives in France or is very familiar with the vagaries of the language as it is used in various regions of France - differences that may arise in phrasing, metaphor or slang that are region-dependent.

The problem is likely to be solvable within one or two casual chats, or a few emails, or maybe even here in the comments - it's really a very small and innocuous detail, but it will make a big difference in the climactic moments of the story, and I'd really like someone with experience to help me...(rather than just making something up. Inaccuracy pains me.)

Story setting: present day London (2015-2016). Nothing too out of the ordinary, at least 95% in line with the real world.

The plot I'm dealing with is that my main character, born and raised in England but whose paternal family originated in France, was in a position to overhear one side of a phone conversation between a counterfeiter and a presumed cohort. He later transcribes everything he remembers hearing, and translates it (mostly based on his own knowledge of the language from childhood, and likely assisted by reference materials). Much later, it becomes apparent that there was something very important divulged in that conversation, but the transcript gives no clue to it...until his father sees it and points out something that carries a completely different meaning in a certain area of France. This gives the clue to some vital detail of an upcoming shipment (or some other big deal going down) - and the day is saved, etc., etc. If it makes any difference, the character's father lived in Lyon through his pre-teens, then moved to Bristol with his parents; a decade later, he remained there when his parents returned to live in Toulouse. But truly, I could make any region or dialect work; the father could have had a friend...

The transcript of the phone call itself will never be seen by the reader; only the vital bits will ever be mentioned. And the phrase in question might be practically anything, no matter how innocuous - I could probably make it work no matter what it was, though I'd love to get a few ideas to choose between. It would be best if the originally translated phrase was something fairly bland and uninteresting, something that didn't stick out as terribly strange. But the main issue is that the two meanings must be clearly very different, quite dependent on region/dialect, and that the alternate meaning would not commonly come up in basic textbook learning.

Things I have done searches for:

"French regional dialects" - returned either overly basic lists of the names of individual dialects, or educational articles and audio lectures which were all actually written in French - I have only very basic comprehension, and I don't have time to get too in-depth. I wasn't able to find a simple, accessible site with a sampling of phrases with dual meanings.
(Note: I did spend as long as I could perusing something called "coolslang.com" which seemed to have potential at first - however, it was mostly curses and sex slang, and nothing seemed to be marked by dialect or region, only by country. I'm not interested in Canadian or Haitian usages, and nearly all entries lacked any alternate meanings that might depend specifically on region...also, many of the commenters there are horrible and offensive. Sigh.)

"French homophones" - I found lists of general, common words pronounced vaguely similarly, not specific to regional slang, all of which would be easily figured out by their context; my characters wouldn't make a dictionary-correctable mistake in interpretation.

I wasn't sure what else to search for - my GoogleFu is unfortunately quite lacking. But the time I did spend searching only served to emphasize the point that I need someone with personal experience to guide me in the right direction.

I've got my fingers crossed that someone here will be willing to lend a hand. Thanks in advance!!
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