Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Wisdom of Miscellaneous Junk in an Echinoderm Scientist's Office

Everybody has weird stuff in their office. Here is a bunch of weird odds and ends...all of which have some professional bearing....but all come with some wisdom and lessons for alll!

1. Ethanol!
So..in my field..you get a lot of ethanol. For preservation, fixation of specimens and what-have you. This is probably just your basic dilution of 75%..but when you get up to 95%?? It strips wax off tables, does horrible things to plastic.

Sometimes you have to be careful about working without gloves too long in the day...lest the ethanol seep into your skin and cause uh...."ethanolic effects" from too much fixed starfish...


2. Bleach!

101 Household Uses! Primarily for disarticulating echinoderm endoskeletons into their component ossicles. But don't let it go for too long!! Weak bleach just does NOT break down ambulacrals the way that new, fresh bleach does!!

Plus be careful disarticulating ossicles when wearing sheik black, or otherwise dark colored clothing....lest it become a sheik, bleach-splattered smock!!!

3. Toilet Paper!

Useful for sopping up the moisture for dryin' out those specimens!! A surprisingly indispensible tool. But one of those things that always gets a strange look from visitors...

4. I hate Cotton!
So, let me educate all those people out there who are drying echinoderms?
DON'T USE COTTON!! DON'T USE COTTON!!! COTTON IS BAD!! BAD!!
(well...except maybe for holothurians).

Basically, cotton is made up of a whole bunch of little fibers. Echinoderm stereom usually has a bunch of tiny spinelets or bunches of other little natural snag-prone features...pedicellariae, ossicles, spines, what-have you.

You put any kind of echinoderm with a dry skeleton into contact with cotton..and it will make off with all the fine stuff..snagged into the cotton. It never truly ever gets cleared off and is just A royal PAIN in the butt to deal with.

So there.

NO COTTON for ECHINODERMS!! (well...except the sea cucumbers...but you have to be careful...)



5. BEWARE THE TOOTHBRUSH.

Quite possibly one of the grossest things in my office is this toothbrush sitting around my sink, which fortunately, has never been accidentally used by anyone....yet!!

You will often find stiff-bristled toothbrushes in the offices of many an-echinoderm taxonomists and morphologists.

These are used in conjunction with bleach to clean off accessory structures so that you can see the plates of various animals...This is used on starfish, sea urchins, ophiuroids, and who knows what else..

Downside is you often end up doing this on VERY old or very trashed specimens that have usually dried or just preserved poorly...So you get to accrete the weird, brown stuff and/or other uggy organic tissue which is just, uh.... well bleargh.

So, there you have it, your lesson of the day about Why You Should NOT use a Toothbrush in an Echinoderm Biologists' Room.....


1 comment:

John said...

So, what exactly are "ethanolic effects," Chris?