Articles, Blog

Periods + Fieldwork

August 19, 2019

(intro jingle) Do you menstruate? Do you know somebody who menstruates? If you answered yes to either of those questions then golly do we have the video for you. Fieldwork is a major part of natural history research and exploration and it’s an opportunity that many scientists and students will be granted through out their course of study and careers But what if you’re going to a really remote place with unpredictable bathroom situations or limited access to basic sanitary conditions? As a scientist or even as a hiker, camper or amateur explorer, you may be unprepared for dealing with some of these scenarios. Specifically when it comes to your menstrual cycle. That’s why we’re bringing you some well researched solutions provided by the first-hand experiences of seasoned researchers and yours truly. We learned the hard way so you don’t have to Voiceover Emily: Planning and before you go! First, consider how long you’re going to be away from luxurious things such like flush toilets, pharmacies and privacy. Whether you’re prospecting for fossils in Wyoming, or searching for frogs in Borneo You’d be lucky, and glad, to see a Porta-Potty. Chances are you might be pooping over a hole in the ground but I really encourage you to ask your expedition leader, or tour guide about the commode accomodations before you go. Consequently, which menstrual items you decide to bring will be based off of things like: Your comfort level with various products, your access to clean water, and of the duration of time spent in the field. Are you gonna be gone for two weeks? Or six months? Whatever you decide on, it’s always a good idea to pack whatever you think you’ll need with you before you go. Don’t rely on being able to find what you want once you land in another country, because it’s likely your only option will be buying MaxiPads the size of twin mattresses. It’s not uncommon for those factors to cause your period to go out of whack. You might skip it entirely because of poor nutrition, or because you contracted parasites from ingesting contaminated food or water. Or the opposite could happen and you’ll just have a period for a month straight. Congratulations! As if you didn’t have other things to worry about. Voiceover Emily: Tampons! Applicator, or digital insertion? Whatever you decide, repeat after me: leave no trace. This mantra, used by backpackers and through hikers is true for everything we talk about today. Packing out used menstrual products is no worse than packing out your used toilet paper which also might be required in situations
where it’s too wet to get a fire hot enough to burn your trash. Tampons are great because they don’t take up a
lot of extra space in your bag and applicator-less or ‘digital’ insertion
tampons – like finger insertion – not like you insert it with your iPhone. Come with even less trash. Compare it to the size and amount of plastic in this kinda tampon? And it’s significant. For packing out I recommend bringing additional ziplock bags and paper sacks or an opaque plastic bag if you’re worried about
people seeing what you’re carrying around. I would also recommend storing your used product bag away from your tent or sleeping area and in a way that is
largely inaccessible from forging critters, as to avoid a situation where
odors might attract curious wildlife. Speaking of wildlife, don’t believe the
myths that you hear about bears being attracted to your period. They’re more
interested in your peanut butter unless you’re in like Greenland where there was
actually a study published implicating that polar bears are unusually curious
about your period smells. Voiceover Emily: Pads! I only talked with one person who recommended using pads while conducting fieldwork. They went with the heavy duty nighttime sized ones because they didn’t have the option to change out their other products very
frequently and couldn’t ensure the cleanliness of their hands while
conducting research. Pads also create a lot of extra trash you’ll have to pack out, and they can be uncomfortable if you’re hiking around and sweating all day. Voiceover Emily: Menstrual cups! Menstrual cups are a highly recommended option for many in the field, and hikers, for a few reasons. They create zero extra trash you need to cart around, they’re comfortable and discreet, if you’re
familiar with using one ahead of time and they take up virtually no space in
your bag. You can theoretically wear a cup like this one for 12 hours at a time and only need to empty it twice a day. If it’s your first time using a
menstrual cup, I’d recommend ordering it a few months ahead of your trip so you
have time to practice and be comfortable with it’s use. In order to keep it clean, remove your cup with clean hands, and rinse it with unscented soap and water, if
available. If your water is limited and you won’t have enough to rinse out the soap, then just use water and if you’re concerned about water purity, this might
not be a good option for you. To completely sanitise your menstrual cup, boil it at the end of your period and you can even use spoons or tongs to suspend it in the center of a boiling pot so as to not melt the silicone. If it seems weird to you, to use the camp cooking supplies to sterilize your
menstrual cup just think about it this way: you just completed your first period
on an expedition and there is virtually nothing that can stop you now. Voiceover Emily: Birth control! While I’m not a medical doctor and this in no way constitutes as medical advice another popular option has to do with
either starting new or altering your current birth control before the trip. For those taking the pill, some researchers will skip the placebos entirely and prolong their hormonal treatment to make it through their field
trip, sans period. Intrauterine devices, or IUDs, are also a good option to consider as they have the tendency to decrease the severity or even stop your
period entirely. With that being said, you must talk to your doctor to see if that’s a good idea and that you’re making a decision that is both healthy
and safe for you. Voiceover Emily: Cramps and Discomfort Cramps and general menstrual discomfort can put a huge damper on the excitement and novelty of doing awesome field work, but preparedness, in this case, is key. Bringing ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or
any kind of anti-inflammatory with you is definitely recommended to help take
the edge off. If you like using a heated blanket or electric pad at home, you can always look for one of these air activated heat wraps before you go. You’ll have to pack it out with you but they’re relatively small and can make a world of difference. Or if you’ve got an extra plastic water bottle that could take some heat, fill it with hot water wrap it in an old shirt, and curl up until
you feel better. It’s ok to take a break. Voiceover Emily: “But what if I feel dirty all of the time?” It’s true that you’re going to have to spend more time than it takes you to hop in and out of the shower at home to feel remotely
clean while in the field, but it will be worth it for your health. Yeast
infections can be a problem in areas where humidity is high and hygiene is
less than stellar. Thankfully they’re a prescription to help with this kind of thing, so, again, talk with your doctor to see if that’s a good option for you. And another thing: while I typically don’t recommend using it over regular soap and water, a
bottle of hand sanitizer can go a long way in the field. Make sure when you’re
inserting or removing products or touching areas around your vagina that
your hands are always clean. Also unscented bathroom wipes can be
incredibly helpful when you don’t have access to a hot shower. They don’t take
up too much space and you can pack them out with your other used products. If you’ve got some extra cash then quick-drying camping underwear can be really helpful. The upside is that they’re made of nylon
and spandex which means you can wash them with just a bit of soap and water
and they dry in a few hours. Cotton underwear can take eons to dry in damp tropical environments and they also run the chance of growing mold if
they don’t dry entirely. The downside of synthetic underwear is that after a while they sort of feel like you’re wearing a plastic bag which takes a little
getting used to. They’re also expensive, like, $14 a pair. A couple of pairs can go a long
way but again this is an instance of which you should always want something
clean and dry so pack extras whatever you choose. Voiceover Emily: And whatever happens, happens. Lastly remember that whatever happens,
don’t feel embarrassed by any mishaps. Be honest and upfront with your
expedition leader about your situation. If you’re in a remote field site for
long enough, your business becomes everyone else’s anyway, and as one
researcher told me a little period leakage is nothing compared to the
explosive diarrhea that keeps sending your lab mates sprinting to the woods
every five minutes. Happy Exploring. (cheery string quartet music plays) Anna from Gross Science: Seeing as this week is Valentine’s Day I thought what better way to celebrate than by answering three surprising questions
about periods? In honour of the tens of millions of women who will have theirs that day. (cheery string quartet music plays)


  • Reply OwlishFun February 28, 2016 at 7:32 am

    Oh this was WONDERFUL!!!! Thanks Emily ;D

  • Reply Elizabeth Lauren Weeks February 29, 2016 at 2:27 am

    You are awesome. Thank you so much for being such a wonderful role model and educator.

  • Reply Jamie Appleseed March 7, 2016 at 4:57 am

    What's behind the "please do not use" sign!?!

  • Reply quartztoad March 11, 2016 at 6:20 am

    ….yay science ladies!

  • Reply XenoChrist March 13, 2016 at 1:09 am

    why the hell did i watch this whole video

  • Reply Максим Щербань March 22, 2016 at 3:05 am

    Ok, why can't you leave used toilet paper behind? Especially if it's too wet to make a fire. The paper will simply degrade in the matter of months.

  • Reply Zoe V March 25, 2016 at 2:18 am

    period panties with built in pads are also extremely useful, but may not be the best to use on am expedition if they can't be at least rinsed.

  • Reply •• エイドリアン April 3, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    It's interesting but I don't know why I clicked on this…I'm a guy

  • Reply Yolanda Wiersma April 4, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    This is just rocking good. I plan to have an anual viewing for field personnel. THANKS!!!

  • Reply Annie Hall May 16, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    I tend to use a combination of menstrual cup and a thin pad. During the day (when my flow tends to be the heaviest) I use a menstrual cup. Then, after roughly 12 hours of wear (or less) I'll remove and clean the cup and use a thin pad during the night.

    I really enjoyed this video! Very useful! Thank you 🙂

  • Reply Steve Cannon English May 22, 2016 at 12:58 am

    great job Emily.  you took a serious problem and addressed it with the gravity and humor that make it possible to talk about these things without getting or being embarrassed.  Good advice for you women.  Us guys have our own little problems but none as great as this one for gals.

  • Reply Charles J Gartner June 9, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    I love how you complain that people don't take female scientists seriously, and how commenters are leaving ridiculous remarks about how they'd bang you or whatever… but then you do a video about female menstruation while doing science. Nice one. Such an important topic.

  • Reply Julia Lara July 14, 2016 at 8:01 am

    How I wish to had watched a video like this before! I say no to many invites of male friends just to avoid the embarrassment. I would die if they knew I was having a hard time with my body. A little blood can't stop us! I feel empowered, thank you, Emily!

  • Reply HeavyMetalJess July 29, 2016 at 12:00 am

    Menstrual cup is the way I go when traveling in Asia or camping. I have just dumped and reinserted before with only hand sanitizer to clean my hands when I was doubty about water quality (just for one empty, wouldn't recommend for the whole cycle). Also, can we talk about how horrible it is that the air activated heat pads don't come in bulk at Costco like the men's back pain sized heat pads do? Costco… what's up?

  • Reply Abbie Bronwen August 11, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Emily! It's awesome that you mentioned how great menstrual cups can be. Not only do I love the brain scoop but I also love menstrual cups, (I even made a video on menstrual cups on my channel).
    I'm a little late to this video but it's still fantastic!

  • Reply Michael Ashburne August 13, 2016 at 1:05 pm


  • Reply XDonlyone August 24, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    can't you like burn them? I know you shouldn't burn plastic (the wrappers). and you couldn't for pads the sticky stuff and well most tampons are not %100 cotton but you can get some.

  • Reply Julia S August 25, 2016 at 1:49 am

    This made me so happy- women in stem talking about how to deal with a period and continue being awesome and doing cool field work. Just so good. Many feminist brownie points to Emily and the team. And also i bow down to women (or people who menstruate) dealing with it in the wild w limited toilet accessibility. I can barely deal w it at home.

  • Reply Omair September 13, 2016 at 10:17 am

    When my tear ducts give issue
    I can't use just any tissue
    I need 4-Ply, 4-Ply, 4-Ply
    When I cry. Huh!

  • Reply akithered September 18, 2016 at 11:23 pm

    Menstrual cups for the win.

  • Reply Sarah Cox September 21, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    Uhg deployments. My bain of my military career. Most of the time the feild store wouldn't even carry female products.

  • Reply Feather1916 September 21, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    I hate herping out in the field while on my period.

  • Reply Candle Duck September 23, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    Have you tried Thinx period panties ?
    or Dear Kate period panties
    They're also a great option! =)

  • Reply lloydgush September 24, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    If you need dildos, glass and stainless steel ones.

  • Reply Dustin Rodriguez September 27, 2016 at 3:52 am

    Great video. Your mentioning at the end about 'whatever happens, happens' made me think that it's lucky you are talking about scientific fieldwork. Things would probably be much worse if you were dealing with just the general public who get terribly worked up and freaked out over basic biology and are actually proud of it. At least a scientific-minded person would step back and say 'this is a basic part of human biology, any reactions I'm having are just stupid and I need to ignore them'. It made me really wonder what menstruation was like before the Industrial Revolution. Houses were built without private bedrooms or much privacy at all, everybody just lived together in a big common room (except for the tiny upper class). I wonder how they dealt with it?

  • Reply Bond Cama October 2, 2016 at 1:19 am

    The strange possibility that a video like this apparently needs to be made… eyeroll
    I lol'd.

  • Reply BarbarosaAlexander October 4, 2016 at 10:41 am

    I don't have to deal with this particular problem, but thank you for doing this. It gave me another opportunity to consider what my women coworkers, friends and family have to deal with – often to their unfair embarrassment.

  • Reply Jump2218 October 6, 2016 at 1:08 am

    I am glad you clarified "digital."

  • Reply lilghost121 October 18, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    I can't even get periods, yet here I am. lol

  • Reply subjecttodeath October 28, 2016 at 3:25 am

    god bless menstrual cups

  • Reply Vordt of the Boreal Valley October 29, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    Why am I watching this?

  • Reply Angela Is here October 31, 2016 at 4:38 am

    My sisters stayed in glacier national park and used diva cups or tampons that they had to keep with them. Most of the women in their group were menstruating.

  • Reply x41ih10a November 3, 2016 at 4:11 am

    As a guy I never even thought of the complexities behind this. Informative video. Makes you gain new respect for what women have to deal with.

  • Reply Fernanda Ferrari December 8, 2016 at 6:07 am

    Moon cup, silicone menstrual cup, works wonders to your body and environment , a little practise to manage but ince you do, not turning back. I find it since I'm using in it , for almost 2 years now, even my cramps has easy down a but plus a diet meatless , almost no camps so months tho.

  • Reply Hannah Hinze December 9, 2016 at 6:04 am

    Thank you for addressing menstrual cups here as well! So much better for the environment, and let's be real, WAY more comfortable once you get the hang of it!

  • Reply kalindarae December 15, 2016 at 4:42 am

    This is awesome.

  • Reply Isidora Flores January 5, 2017 at 2:34 am

    I'm a hiker and I use the cup, it's great because as you said its discrete, doesn't produce any waste and you can wear it for a really long time without worrying about it. It's true that it's difficult to clean if you don't have access to clear water, but I find that using baby wipes to clean it in between works great for a quick solution, and it also serves for cleaning your hands before insertion.
    I have tried every method of dealing with periods in the wild mentioned here and the cup is really the best ever. Just be sure to pack baby wipes with you just in case =)

  • Reply Caitlin Shelbourne January 11, 2017 at 12:32 am

    Something tells me this video will get a lot of re-watching if I follow a career in palaeontology! Love everything on the channel, keep it up!

  • Reply Skallia Ray January 19, 2017 at 1:42 am

    with the menstrual cups you can buy cleansing wipes that are for the purpose of cleaning the cup without water. they usually come VERY tiny almost like a wipe you get when you eat rips at a restaurant lol. I use a cup in my normal life and if you are comfortable with the idea of them i think it would be great in the field.

  • Reply Carly D'Allen January 30, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    Thanks Emily 🙂

  • Reply burymeinpink February 1, 2017 at 5:23 am

    I'm so glad I'm a Literature major and the closest I get to nature while on my period is googling how to use period blood as plant fertilizer.

  • Reply M1ST3RHYDE February 10, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    Dang! I sure am glad I clicked the External Genital option when I was in utero.

  • Reply Joelle Jansen February 12, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    I love this video because she's so matter of fact about it. Half of the fertile population deals with this on a monthly basis, so why the taboo?

  • Reply Katie Elmer February 24, 2017 at 1:32 am

    love you. love this.

  • Reply Bugged_Out_Frankie March 6, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    this is such a wonderful and informative video for women entering the fields of science!! I never thought about it like this! good job 🙂

  • Reply Kelly S May 13, 2017 at 3:55 am

    Emily, I love your videos! So happy that you recommended the menstrual cup. As an avid hiker, I so wish I'd discovered these puppies decades ago. There really is zero waste to pack out. And you can bring hand sanitizer and a SteriPen to keep things copasetic.

  • Reply Karin Scott May 16, 2017 at 6:32 am


  • Reply Emily Dusicska May 20, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    I know this video is a bit older now, but it came up on my feed the week before I would be doing field work a few miles away from any bathroom, which happened to be the week of my period. Thank you!

  • Reply Eric Harkleroad May 21, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    Glad there is an episode like this, I'd encourage guys to watch this who work with, or organize field work, so that you have a clue what women may need or are going through so you can at least do what you can to help out.

  • Reply Harry PAnnU ! May 28, 2017 at 12:30 am

    wow !

  • Reply Zabcia Zabcia May 31, 2017 at 2:32 am

    I've been wondering about this and I'm glad to know there's so many options

  • Reply Mr. Meeseeks June 4, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    I use menstrual cups and they are amazing. They certainly take a lot of getting used to, but it's SO worth it

  • Reply LeesaDeAndrea July 1, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    Very informative. Well done!

  • Reply Lauren Noel July 1, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    This is an A+ video.

  • Reply Pa Pinkelman July 31, 2017 at 9:22 am


  • Reply Snake Was Right July 31, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    And where do you dump the cup? Is that not a biohazard?

  • Reply Maren Hatch August 1, 2017 at 9:45 pm

    0:41 so why can I dance on my period, but not ~square~ dance?

  • Reply candycoatedcactus August 5, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    I was curious about this! I'm glad you made this video. Menstruation can be taboo to talk about, so looking up a video like this is a lot easier than asking for advice when I go camping. Thank you so much 🙂

  • Reply jessica.amber August 28, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    I was surprised at how relevant this video is for every woman, no matter what her profession or interests. Thanks for posting… it was really interesting!

  • Reply Ed Loki August 31, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    what is the best, naturally occurring replacement for toilet paper??

  • Reply dorgesh September 4, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    i must be remarkably mature for watching the whole of this

  • Reply Holly Bullis September 13, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    I love that you are talking about this Emily! I work as a backpacking trip leader and as such I have a shorter version of this conversation with the women on every trip I lead. I'm so glad you're brining this out into the open so hopefully people can feel less weird about periods.

  • Reply J Cortese September 29, 2017 at 11:59 pm

    Videos like this remind me once again of how glad I am that my uterus swelled up to the size of Jabba the Hutt and gave me a watertight excuse to get the damn thing yanked out. 🙂

  • Reply Wilder September 30, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    I really love that its not "are you a woman who menstruates?" and it's "are you someone who menstruates?" members of the trans community love you for this <3

  • Reply Anonymous Chupacabra October 14, 2017 at 1:58 am

    thank you I love you Narisona

  • Reply jfrader October 24, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    You are doing great things for women in the sciences.

  • Reply Luke Anthony November 14, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    laughs in man

  • Reply Libo's Workshop November 18, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    "Do you menstruate? Do you know someone who menstruates?"… "…Not like you insert it with your iphone"…. you are hilarious!

  • Reply Ally Gee November 19, 2017 at 3:32 am

    Hats off to any guy who watched the whole clip ?

  • Reply Eric Taylor November 22, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    3:00 How do they conduct this research? "Okay ladies, we're testing if menstrual smells attract one of the largest, most dangerous predictors known, AND they have historically demonstrated no hesitation in targeting humans as food. Here's your rifles, keep them close by, you're going to need them…."

  • Reply Jennifer Price January 30, 2018 at 5:38 am

    The missed opportunity to use the pun 'acCOMMODEations' makes me sad

  • Reply Rachel Neff February 4, 2018 at 8:17 am

    This was incredibleee

  • Reply Brooke Console February 17, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    Sittin' here being a trans lady like, I can't relate
    But it's still a good video!

  • Reply Napalm Candy February 21, 2018 at 5:28 am

    I actually put off doing field work in the past because of periods; I know I missed great internship opportunities, but I didn't want to be without running water during that time of the month. Now that I'm graduating in April, I'm considering looking for such opportunities once more, and was wondering exactly what researchers who have periods dealt with them. I use cloth pads, but have been interested in cups for some time. Seems like the best solution for where I might end up. Thank you so much!

  • Reply Silly Goose March 28, 2018 at 9:56 pm

    dude, you are funny

  • Reply faeriesmak April 7, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    I know that this is an old video but I recommend bringing along a whisk that is large enough to fit your menstrual cup into if you are using one in the field. Then you can boil it INSIDE the whisk, the whisk protects it, and also is a handle so you don't have to chase it around a pot of boiling water to remove it.

  • Reply Sam Rakita April 15, 2018 at 7:15 pm

    Great gender neutral and very informative video! The thought of having a month long period is enough to keep me at home, but luckily I have the brain scoop to keep me educated in the comfort of my own bed!

  • Reply Ann Marie Gawel May 3, 2018 at 2:26 am

    What kind of vertebrae are in your earrings? They look cool!

  • Reply Ian Brown May 10, 2018 at 7:06 pm

    Hey Emily, I'm super late to the party on this, but I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate you saying 'do you or someone you know menstruate' and not secluding it to 'women', and I super wish I'd had this kind of advice before I started hormones and had to deal with period products while camping @[email protected]

  • Reply Wlfby May 14, 2018 at 1:48 am

    i love that this video isn’t super gendered, i usually hate watching these educational videos about menstruation because they are always about how only women menstruate! this video is very inclusive 🙂

  • Reply Ace Referiza June 4, 2018 at 6:56 am

    Five minutes in and it's only now that I'm asking myself why I'm watching this.

  • Reply Average Misfit June 11, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    I thought this said period and fireworks

  • Reply Cheese the cow fish b July 9, 2018 at 2:59 pm


  • Reply Mark crowder August 3, 2018 at 12:25 am

    Why do some women smell like fish dead fish when it's that time of the month

  • Reply Mark crowder August 3, 2018 at 12:27 am

    Sharks can smell your period

  • Reply Mark crowder August 3, 2018 at 12:27 am

    That cup is nasty

  • Reply Mark crowder August 3, 2018 at 12:28 am

    Just go commando

  • Reply xECxMystic August 11, 2018 at 6:27 am

    Well I am a man and can not necessarily speak to anything. I will say that this seems like it could all be avoided by doing what my wife does. She is on what I believe is called a depo shot. She has not had a period since our last son was born in 2007…

  • Reply Nara Feralina August 26, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    "If it seems weird to you, to use the camp cooking supplies to sterilize your menstrual cup, just think about it this way: you just completed your first period on an expedition and there is virtually nothing that can stop you now."

    Emily, you are a hero. xD

  • Reply plot2themoon August 27, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    I wish this video had existed before my Peace Corps days.

  • Reply Borat Sagdiyev September 12, 2018 at 8:07 am

    no women in the field.

  • Reply Dilly Dangles October 19, 2018 at 11:30 pm

    1:07 that frog is sick of your shit

  • Reply Micheal Kelly October 27, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    Thanks so much for dispelling the myth of bears and periods!

  • Reply roboliño schmidt November 1, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    Women don't poop and menstruate….? lalalalalalala

  • Reply Nyctophora January 6, 2019 at 7:03 am

    Thanks for this. I didn't even notice it wasn't gendered but that's good too! After all transmen exist 🙂

  • Reply Iris Iota January 22, 2019 at 10:01 am


  • Reply Don't, Jim Angius April 11, 2019 at 6:54 pm

    “I’m a guy and I don’t have periods but I approve of this video!”

    Yeah, that’s definitely something women need from you…

  • Reply Ann Marie Gawel May 2, 2019 at 3:53 am

    Is she wearing snake vertebrae earrings and a necklace??

  • Reply Ayden May 7, 2019 at 10:56 pm

    Hell yeah!! A video addressing periods that doesnt assume gender!!! ??? i love this channel so damn much

  • Reply Tessa Silberbauer July 20, 2019 at 10:04 am

    I laughed at the Iphone insertion, and then I swear my wobbly bits curdled at the thought… This was fantastic. Thank you.

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