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Author/Editor: N. Sivasothi
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore.


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Wed 01 Feb 2006

Freezer maintenance

Category : people

Bursting through the door to the wet collection (I do a lot of this), I stumbled upon Luan Keng and Martin emptying one of our freezers today. They scraped off the accumulated ice and managed to toss out a couple of bucket-loads. Then they relabeled some items for easier retrieval and repacked the freezer. When they had finished, they had recovered about 20% of the space, an amazing feat!

I was encouraged by this effort to haul a bucket of ice to the showers for disposal and help them re-stack the packages.

Why are there specimens in the freezer? Well some tissue are awaiting researchers DNA work and is best not preserved in formalin or alcohol. Others are occasional specimens bought in - migrating birds crashing into windows, roadkills, specimen batches meant to be processed by a specific individual, etc. It's an invaluable utility for surprising contributions to the museum have included pangolins, part of a dugong, macaques, birds of a variety of sizes and colours and loads of fish.

The packages, packets or tubes each come with a label of some sort, even if just a piece of paper scribbled on in the field. It usually contains critical information - the location of collection, the date, collector's name and other field notes - this same information is transcribed to a label. Every specimen or lot of specimens has a label.

Often, a package bears the name of a researcher, and no disposal or processing can be conducted without the person's consent. It's taboo to do otherwise and researchers all respect that. You never know what the person had in mind!

Once a year, we empty the freezer and batch process the entire lot (with permission) and it's amazing what is revealed! This time was merely a maintenance exercise but still, Luan Keng and Martin managed to uncover someone's stash of maggie mee!

Thanks to Marcus Ng for the pictures!

Posted at 5:57PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,