Monday, September 5, 2011

First lab session (5 Sep 2011)

A very small team arrive on St. John's Island to participate in the first laboratory session of the Survey!
We are very excited to get started!

A short pleasant walk up the wooded hill and we soon arrive at the idyllic site of the Tropical Marine Science Institute. Safety is a priority in lab work. So NO slippers or sandals. Covered shoes are a MUST.
Wow, we also get to wear lab coats! Don't we look very sciency? Also gloves and masks against inhaling the fumes of the preservatives.
Today, we are going to sort out some fishes that have been caught during past surveys. Some of those well before the Mega Marine Survey started. Yen Ling gives us a very thorough briefing on what we are to do. Seems doable.
Dr Ng Heok Hee drops by to give us more pointers about sorting out the fishies. This is very helpful and we feel encouraged that we can do it.
First we take out all the fishes from the jar of preserving alcohol. And put them all out on the orange sorting tray.
Ah, now it's time to do "one of these things is not like the other". We put the fishes that look alike together on the white sorting tray.
This is fun and easy!
For some fishes, we sort them out very quickly.
Uh oh. Here's a pile of fishes that look very similar.
Dr Ng to the rescue! He taught us how to note smaller details such as the structure of the mouth. After his explanation, it was a breeze to get the sorting done!
As we sorted, we also had a chance to take a closer look at some of the fishes. Such as the 'half a beak' of the halfbeaks. Also a puffed up pufferfish. And some stingrays. Wow.
Dr Tan Koh Siang drops by to have a look at how we are doing. Phew. It seems we are doing ok.
After sorting out the fishes, they are packed into smaller bags and labels have to be added to the bags. Rene has very neat handwriting!
Then we have to put all the small bags back into the big jar. This has to be done gently so as not to damage the specimens. It's not as easy as it first seems to be!
But eventually, success!
We had so much fun that time slipped by. Just as we got into the swing of it, it was time to leave! We could have worked all day! After the lab session, the volunteers got a tour of the fascinating work going on at TMSI.

Rene shared more photos about today's lab session on facebook, and says: "It was really fun for me as not only do I get to observe the fishes up close (they are always swimming away from me!), I also learnt to tell them apart. First you see the shape, then the scales, the eyes and the mouth...The time is simply too short. Just as we were enjoying our work, we have to leave to catch the ride back."

There's lots more lab sessions ahead. And these are so popular with the volunteers that all slots are already filled! More about the lab sessions.

To join the Mega Marine Survey, register your interest in this form and you'll be invited to join the mailing list to receive updates on the Survey and sign up for Survey activities.

Also check out our FAQs for more about the Survey.

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