Arrested Development, or real life? Maybe both.
Photo: 20th Century Fox

You may not think that Arrested Development—the internet-favorite show about a family of incompetent SoCal real estate developers—has much of anything to do with field biology. But Twitter has proven otherwise over the past week. Turns out, a lot of biologists can find a voice for their daily struggles through the equally ignominious experiences of Buster, Tobias, and G.O.B.

Phipps Conservatory Entomologist Ryan Gott was rewatching Arrested Development earlier this week when he decided to tweet about a situation that a lot of his fellow researchers find themselves in: helping someone who wants to know what a bug that they killed in their house was, but who didn’t do something useful like take a picture or keep the body.

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It reminded him, naturally, of listening to Buster attempt to describe his godmother-cum-girlfriend, Lucille Austero.

“Every entomologist knows the feeling of trying to ID a mystery bug for someone who only has a blurry photo or a smashed blob in a napkin,” Gott told Earther over Twitter direct message. “But it is one of the best ways to connect to someone who is already interested in that particular insect.”

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Gott’s hashtag, #ArrestedScience, immediately connected with biologists on Twitter who love Arrested Development, and was soon filled with Arrested Development GIFs used to make fun of common field biology experiences. One, by University of Central Florida undergraduate Emily Karwacki, referenced the hazards of trying to import samples from outside the country.

While G.O.B. is trying to launch a business selling live bees as gifts, researchers are often just trying to do science. Luckily, we (very rarely) get tackled by prison guards.

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“I’ve never had live bees come through the airport, unfortunately,” said Lewis Bartlett, a PhD student studying, yes, bees, at UC Berkeley. But one of his collaborators (Britt Koskella, then a graduate student, now an assistant professor at UC Berkeley) did try to import snails, which so excited the customs agents that they spent three hours questioning her in a room.

Another tweet that racked up several hundred likes used Michael Bluth’s infamous discovery of a dead dove in his freezer to showcase an extremely common field biologist experience: that of storing all sorts of strange, disgusting things in any available freezer. (I’ve had a bat in mine for two years.)

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The fun continued, with copycat hashtags that related scientists’ experiences through Parks and Rec (#ScienceandRecreation, started by University of North Dakota grad student Andrew Barnas), and the recently-canceled (and then rescued) Brooklyn Nine-Nine (#ScienceNineNine, started by plant community ecologist Hannah A. Brazeau).

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Gott said he was happy to see the hashtags take off, adding that it’s good for scientists to be able to get a bit silly about their work in a way that everyone can relate to. At the end of the day, it’s a reminder that scientists are just like the rest of us: self-deprecating, emotional messes who deal with a lot of crap at work.

“I think that’s important to show in a time when distrust of science and scientists seems to be on the rise,” he said.

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Asia Murphy is a PhD student at Pennsylvania State University using cameras to study black bears, coyotes, and bobcats.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the Science and Recreation hashtag was started by Ryan Gott. It was actually started by Andrew Barnas. The text has been updated accordingly.