Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Progress!

So, it's been a few months since my last post. But that's okay. I had a lot of work to be done and blogging wasn't part of that. And, as you might have guessed, the work is actually moving forward! Exciting stuff.

So, the majority of my samples are still defatting. Which doesn't sound much like progress, I'm sure. But it is, and this is why: they are defatting in a different chemical. I was using a chloroform-methanol-water mix. It's a fairly cheap solution and works pretty well. But after 6 months, there was still fat coming out, even with the help of the sonic bath. So, having a look through previous work on this method, I thought it might be worth trying something stronger. The chemical in question is a lot nastier than the solution I was using. But it works oh so much quicker. Chemical nasty in question: tetrahydrofuran. So, while getting chloroform on the skin is annoying, getting THF on the skin is dangerous. Cue lab coat and gloves. I don't object to the lab coat so much, but the gloves annoy the hell out of me. Also, be careful of spilling THF, because it makes the beakers stick to the fume hood.
The reason why this is progress, is because the fat appears to have disappeared. Now one could possibly make the argument that this is because I wouldn't be able to see the fat if you hit me over the head with it. You could also suggest that it's because the THF evaporates so quickly I'm yet to actually change the solution properly. I prefer to think it's because the fat is finally out. I'm going to check on it later today and hopefully I'll be able to start milling later this week [like tomorrow]!

For the rest of today, I should probably work on other MSc related things. But it's getting close to the end of November and I have done very little work on the Klasies River Conservation Management Project. So, I'll probably get to that, once I see it sieving Wendell with THF makes any difference. Hopefully it doesn't make enormous holes in my sieves.

Yesterday, I was at the museum, attempting to find canids for a researcher from the US. She's doing ancient DNA stuff, and is hoping to look at samples from Nelson Bay Cave (NBC) and Boomplaas (BPA). I've pulled out the NBC samples, but I couldn't find the BPA stuff in the store. There were only three boxes of identifiable bone. So, being the bright spark that I am, I hung around and waited for Tyler to get to his office. He did, indeed have the BPA boxes. He was not particularly thrilled to find out that he'd missed three boxes. He's going through and measuring and doing whatever else faunal analysts do to the BPA material. So once he's had a look at the canids, I can prepare them for shipping to the US.

And now, back to work.

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