Monday, November 26, 2007

The Move Continues, But Stuff Already Works

I've been distracted over the past week by our ongoing move into the new building. I now have a working computer in my new space, the one that's hooked up to my good compound digital microscope. Network Services on campus has a rigamarole set up so that computers have to be re-registered for our new, faster network in the building, and that only took me about 15 minutes the other day. First I had to figure out what name they wanted, and then the appropriate password. Oh well, it works. This week I begin to pack up teaching lab gear, in between giving two intro biology exams.

My cunning new plan is to set up either a 130 gal. or 55 gal. native fishes tank in the Zoology lab, where space exists. First, of course, I have to move the tanks but once that adventure is over I should have an interesting new space. My other cunning plan is building an aquarium rack for my lab. I have a space about five feet long, and my design is to have a three shelf rack with the three shelves being made from two one-inch planks screwed into a supporting rectangle of 2x4's, and each resulting shelf attached to the four legs of the rack by lag bolts. This is the design I had in my apartment in Boston that turned out to be so solid that I couldn't take it apart and move it when we left that apartment. But I don't plan to leave this lab anytime soon, so that part's OK. I realize that I can use the bracket-mounted shelves in my current office; this material will be left behind as we move out, so I can recycle (no, not steal!) some of that material for my rack. Hopefully I'm not being too clever with this design; at least I can afford it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Shiny New Lab

I'm now largely moved into the new science building, the Shelby Center. The moving company moved my office stuff (mostly boxes of books) into my new office, and I moved my own "lab" gear into my new lab. I haven't had a real lab since moving to UAH, so this is a big step forward. My gear has been scattered through three rooms around Wilson Hall, and now I can pile it all together.

The first photo below shows the lab from the corner where I'll build some kind of aquarium rack for multiple 10 and 20 gallon tanks. I even have a window, instead of hanging out in the bunkers in the old building. You can kinda see the fume hood in the far back right corner, on the far side of the island in the middle of the room. This side of the island will probably be for microscopy and dissections, so the dissecting microscope is there. The good digital compound microscope will probably also go on that bench. The low back bench along the window will hold the two old P4 computers we've been using for counting and characterizing telescope shiner eggs The lab is bristling with internet ports, so we're ready for the 21st century, etc. On the back bench is the stack of boxes with my preserved fish collection waiting to be put into the cabinets below, which contain pull-out trays ideal for holding jars of fish, etc. We've been told that lab stools will be delivered in a few weeks, until then I brought over two solidly built chairs from the old lab.

Below is a view back to where the other photo was taken from. The bay along the wall is where the aquarium rack will go, along with my small freezer chest. You can even see an overhead safety shower, a piece of lab safety equipment you wouldn't find in the old building. I'm happy to say that we're now in compliance with federal safety standards, albeit 25 years later than most other places. The place is beautiful, and the teaching labs are also an amazing improvement on what we've been using. I could gush on and on.....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I'm Moving, Wheee! I'm Not Too Crusty Yet.

I got a key to my new lab yesterday and brought the first stuff over to it. All the labs on the floor were unlocked, and there's one other peculiar feature that will take getting used to: for fire safety reasons there are unlocked doors between all of the labs. This means, of course, that the place has low security both in terms of things being taken, as well as personal security. The first is easier to deal with; I have a total of six drawers with locking capabilities and have padlocks on two of these drawers, all the padlocks I have(!). I don't think anyone will steal or bother my preserved fish jars, but other things may move. We'll see.... Other than that the building is beautiful. Now I know what $52 million in federal money can buy.

As we move in this week, the university is staging a Research Expo in the large first floor. When I walked through last night it looked like a corporate trade show, which was strange. Various departments and Centers have slickly assembled booths to hype whatever it is that they do. I participate from 10-11 in the College of Science booth, the hour given over to the biology department. I'm still unclear exactly what we're supposed to do, but I'll play through. "Hey, you -- let me show you my flame chubs!"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Collection Is All Packed, And Soon We Move!

Yesterday I finished boxing my spirit collection of fish (mostly ethanol). I think it took about 15 boxes, from small (for the last 8 jars) to boxes it takes both arms to pick up and hold (not packed solid with jars, but spread out with packing peanuts between and above them). Since we're allegedly being given keys to our new offices and labs tomorrow I hope to move them all myself in the next week, along with the invert material I inherited from Dick Modlin. Handling the jars gave me a chance to assess their condition which I haven't been able to do as well as I'd like. A few small jars were hopelessly dried, usually holding juvenile Fundulus from New England. One jar had three still-damp rainwater killifish I'd collected on Nantucket ten years ago, so I was able to save them with fresh ethanol. I hope to do better curation in a more amenable new space(!).

Today I went in and rolled up my office rug after vacuuming it so I can put it down before everything is moved in, and also packed up stuff from my file cabinet. This includes purchase records for the teaching labs, my overhead projector-format lecture material for Biology II, and large amounts of photocopied articles from various projects over the last 15 years. I have a surprisingly good reference library for Fundulus diversity, freshwater chemistry, acid rain effects on aquatic organisms, and paleoclimate research especially for Africa. Who knows if I'll use a lot of that again, but over the years I went to so much trouble and expense to collect this material, at 10 cents a page for photocopies, I'm holding on to it all.

And I'm still scheming to get my proposed stippled studfish study in gear.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Mussel Survey Off Of The Tennessee River

I've been giving exams over the last week, so my time's been pressed. The whole of last Tuesday was spent participating in a survey for mussels in a creek off of the south side of the Tennessee River upstream from Huntsville. Three divers, two helpers and me started at the stagnant, super muddy upstream end and worked down into the mouth of the Tennessee, and out a ways down the Tennessee shore.

We found few species and few individuals in the muddy upstream area. When we hit the mouth of the creek, in the picture below, the diversity and abundance went way up; we found ohio pigtoes, a black sandshell, lots of elephant ears, pimplebacks, and three ridges along with the dominant species in this creek, the yellow sandshell. The small yellow wooden boat in the picture was used to hold equipment and dragged down the creek. In the foreground of the picture on the right you can see dead elephant ear shells.

Below is an upper area of the creek, with a clay/mud/detritus bottom and low flow. Few mussels are happy with that environment; most prefer flowing water over gravel or sand. Luckily for us the day was relatively warm, about 70 F. The survey took all day, and the divers went home and immediately went to bed from the exhaustion of being in 55 F water in wet suits. But I think we all had a good time, and generated a lot of data which I'll post in its entirety after we give it to the property owners.