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NFC: Field Trip to K.U. (fwd)

Our Vertebrate Zoology class made and interesting trip to Lawrence, KS
yesterday and the Natural History Museum run by Kansas University.  This
was a "behind the scenes" tour where we were able to look at the processes
and techniques for preserving fishes and birds. (next week we see the herp

Our tour guide was Kate Shaw, Collections Curator for the Ichthyology
Dept., and one time NANFA member. (sorry, don't know Ms. Shaw's current
membership status)  We were shown examples of several Etheostoma species
that had been "cleared and stained".  An interesting process to say the
least where the flesh of a fish is soaked until it is transparent so that
the bones and cartilage are clearly seen.  These are stained with various
pigments to highlight them.  We also saw bone collections, including some
rather large Alligator Gar heads collected many years ago in the Gulf
region.  We were also given a demonstration of the storage of tissue
samples and also the computer they now use to do DNA sequencing. (it's
sweet to say the least, saves major time and stress from doing it the old

Then it was off to the preserved collection.  This has been stored in a
fireproof addition due to the 70% ethanol that is used to preserve the
specimens.  This was a huge collection!  I went down approximately 6 isles
each about 8 feet high and 20 feet long and never go out  of the
cyprininds!  Kate showed us specimens of two of the federally listed
Kansas species, the Neosho Madtom and the Topeka Shiner and she talked how
the fish fauna had changed in the state over the last hundred years or
so.  After this, we had a real treat when we shown the coelacanth
specimen.  Too cool!  It may be the only chance I ever get to see one up
close.  There were also a couple of lungfish in the vat with it.  All very

After Kate's tour, were were taken through the ornithology dept.  Not as
exciting to me as ichthyology, but interesting never the less.  The
saddest moment was when we were shown one of the specimens of the now
extinct Carolina Parakeet.  What a beautiful bird it was!  Unfortunately,
it is believed that diseased brought over along with old world parrots (as
pets) could have been the main culprit in eliminating this species.  On a
much more cheery note, we were told that recently two possible specimens
of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker were sighted in Mississippi.  While
unconfirmed, this would be good news as this species was thought to be
extinct.  Researchers are there right now trying to confirm the
sighting.  Also, it turns out that a few individuals are still alive in
Cuba, so maybe there is some hope for this species.

All in all it was a fascinating trip and I hope to go back someday when I
have more time to "browse".  :)

Luke McClurg