The Ayerarwaddy River
In 2007 I was lucky enough to be able to go to Myanmar (Burma) with a colleague Dr Ralf Britz to collect freshwater fishes. It proved to be a very educational trip in many ways.
During the course of a month we travelled via car, boat and plane from Myeik in the south up to Mrauk-U in Rakhine State in the north-west of the country. We managed to collect over a thousand specimens, including several new species.
I was somewhat apprehensive about going to a place with such a bad reputation but the local people that we spoke to were unanimously very pleased to see us and glad that we were visiting their beautiful country.
Left: A view of Myeik seafront in southern Myanmar. At low tide the beach came alive with mudskippers.
Centre: Some villagers offering us a snakehead.
Right: A freshwater pufferfish (Tetraodon cutcutia) caught in the Laymyo River in western Myanmar.
A harbour porpoise found on the south bank of the Thames. This specimen appears to have collided with a boat propeller.
I am part of a team who have the lovely job of collecting carcasses of small cetaceans and delivering them to London Zoo for autopsy and analysis.
The majority of specimens I've collected so far have been harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) which are usually small enough to fit in the boot of a car.
Causes of death vary between bycatch, collisions with boats and the occasional dolphin related murder.
A stuffed and mounted type specimen which was discovered in the dry collections.
I am currently curating and databasing some of the dry fish collections (primarily stuffed and skin specimens) stored at South Kensington. These were mostly collected in the 19th century before the advent of formalin when it was not always possible to carry large amounts of preserving fluid on collecting trips, especially those taking place inland. There is a lot of type material in this state for which the database records are inaccurate or incomplete and I have been rectifying this wherever possible. The type skins are currently being rehoused in archival quality storage boxes.
A female deep-sea anglerfish (Melanocetus johnsonii) from the I.O.S. collection. The stomach is heavily swollen with food.
I have been providing Dr William Eschmeyer of the California Academy of Sciences with information regarding our type material so that the online Catalog of Fishes can be updated. The dry collections include many specimens of important historical value. We have fishes that were collected by Charles Darwin, Mungo Park and David Livingstone and also from the expeditions of Sir James Clark Ross and Captain James Cook.
In the late 1990s we received a very large collection of Atlantic midwater fishes from the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences in Southhampton. I am in the process of sorting through this material and curating the specimens. Our database is being updated so that information relating to this important collection will made available to researchers worldwide.