EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The geological period no one talks about: menstruation in the field

Robyn Pickering1 and Rivoningo Khosa1,2
Robyn Pickering and Rivoningo Khosa
  • 1University of Cape Town, Human Evolution Research Institute, Department of Geological Sciences, Cape Town, South Africa (
  • 2TAMS Department, NRF iThemba LABS, Johannesburg, South Africa

A simple Google search for the phrase “period in geosciences” will likely yield reference to geological time. However, ask any woman1 in geosciences, in either academia or industry, and they will have experienced at least one menstrual period in the field, predicted or not. Given the composition of most undergraduate classes, at least half the class are likely to be at risk of experiencing menstruation during field training, and yet, this issue remains unspoken of at best, taboo at worst. This is a global issue, with some Institutions leading the way with innovative policy and practical guidelines2.

To get a sense of the scale of this issue in the South African setting, we ran an informal survey, during the Human Evolution Research Institute’s (HERI) All Womxn Field Camp. This is a three day, two night, women’s only field training camp, which in 2022 had 19 participants from five African countries. Participants ranged from undergarduates, to PhD candidates, post docs and permenant academic staff from the University of Cape Town and Iziko South African Museum. Participants all reported experiencing menstruation at some point during their field training and all expressed issues of discomfort, pain and anxiety affecting their ability to work optimally. Many indicated the inability to openly communicate with lecturers and/or demonstrators about menstruation related issues due to the surrounding stigma.

Following this discussion and referring to best practice guidelines elsewhere2, we propose including sanitary wear in packing lists provided to students. We put together an emergency period kit to accompany every field excursion, containing a range of menstrual products, pain relief, sanitizer etc. We further recommend that bathroom breaks should be planned for and made frequent throughout all field excursion2,3. Finally, we advocate for open communication about this issue and hope that the emergency period kits can help facilitate this. The awkwardness and stigma that surrounds menstruation needs to be tackled head on, and we encourage all lecturers, demonstrators and PIs to actively participate in this endeavor to ensure that all geoscientists have a fair chance to engage optimally in field settings.


1. we refer here to cisgendered women who menstruate; we could also have referred this group as people who menstruate

2. Giles, S., Greene, S., Ashey, K., Dunne, E., Edgar, K., and Hanson, E. Getting the basics right: a field-teaching primer on toilet stops in the field, EGU General Assembly 2020, EGU2020-11723,, 2020

3. Pickering, R., Hasbibi, S., and Tostevin, R. Redesigning field training to provide an informative, safe, and even fun experience for first year students at the University of Cape Town, South Africa., EGU General Assembly 2022, EGU22-522,, 2022

How to cite: Pickering, R. and Khosa, R.: The geological period no one talks about: menstruation in the field, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-167,, 2023.