Yesterday, our collaborators at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) warned Dan that some of his specimens were leaking. Not good news!
All of the lichen and invertebrate specimens (collected over the past 6 weeks of sampling in the forests of Borneo) are now at UMS, waiting to be sorted and packed and eventually loaned to the Natural History Museum (NHM) for further study and identification.
But the invertebrate specimens cannot be transported or stored safely while they are leaking alcohol (which acts to preserve the specimens) so it was all hands on deck this morning at UMS.
The container the specimens had been stored in was swimming in alcohol.
On arriving at the university we discovered it was one container in particular that was causing the trouble. Inside were specimens that had been collected by other NHM scientists in Danum Valley, but instead of being stored in tubes they had been sealed in plastic bags…that were meant to be leak-proof. But the bags had failed and now there was alcohol swilling around the container producing a particularly bad smell! Left in this condition the specimens would soon rot.
The painstaking task of carefully emptying the bags and putting the contents into tubes.
So, one by one, the bags were opened and the contents removed and resealed in plastic, screw-top tubes. A valuable lesson in the importance of reliable storing methods, without which weeks of collecting and hard work can be for nothing. On the upside, it did give us the opportunity to see some different and interesting specimens including various ‘horned’ beetles, large cicadas and a crab! The latter presumably having been collected close to a fresh water river.
An unexpected discovery amongst the collected specimens.
But it wasn’t just Dan, Kerry and Keiron (with the added help of Tony) who were kept busy with attending to specimens today. Elsewhere in the university, Pat and Holger had discovered one of the main difficulties with storing specimens in the tropics – humidity. The specimens of lichens had been left in closed, plastic bags, and consequently moisture had collected and was causing the lichens to become damp. A dangerous situation that can lead to the growth of mould and the loss of entire collections of samples. Needless to say, everyone was kept busy for most of the day.
Packing specimens for transportation involves lots of cardboard boxes and bubble-wrap!
Finally, once re-sealed and re-labelled, the invertebrate specimens were carefully packed by a removal company, ready for transportation to the UK. Not the most common of courier requests!
Dan was particularly pleased when the last box was sealed!
Having rinsed the smell of alcohol and dung beetles off of our hands, we decided to spend what was left of the day exploring the city. Kota Kinabalu is clearly a busy and bustling city and well set-up for tourists, with a multitude of restaurants to choose from and markets selling memorabilia and gifts. And it doesn’t all stop when the sun goes down…in fact it gets better! By the waterfront is a massive, open-air night market, selling vast quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables and a wide array of fish. At some stalls, you can choose the fish you want and they will cook it for you, there and then. We had to give it a try!
One of the many stalls cooking fresh fish and seafood.
I think Kerry managed to trump my tasty but tiny prawn!