On Tuesday I went by the lab. By lab I mean the Grice Marine Laboratory.
In one of the buildings of this laboratory there is a room full of shelves. A room that remains dark and cool most of the time. There are eight switches that control the lights above the eight aisles between rows of shelves. On these shelves there are jars. Jars filled with 75% ethanol. Alcohol. Like the one you keep in the medicine cabinet. In this jars there are fishes and invertebrates. At least those that can fit in a glass jar. In this room there are also fishes that cannot fit in glass jars. These fishes are in stainless steel tanks and each tank has a piece of paper with scientific names and catalog numbers on it.
On Tuesday I was reading in the back of a classroom full of students. The lecture was about sharks and rays. Students learn about traits that are useful for identifying sharks and rays to species. They learn to identify fishes by observing at preserved specimens using dichotomic keys. A sort of road map with only two ways to go when moving forward. I saw a large tub on a cart in the classroom and I asked if I could help. I went to the collection room.
I was standing in front of one of the big shiny silver tanks. One tank was going to be open. It was decided that it would be the one in the far end of the row, close to the accessory aisle, perpendicular to the one were the tanks were located.
The moment came. I began helping to flip butterfly-like knobs. By doing so the pressure that holds the lid against the edge of the tub is released. This pressure assures that the rubber gasket under the lid makes a seal preventing alcohol evaporation. I knew what was coming. The suspense was killing me. Until all the knobs were release and the lid came up. I took a deep breath as many sharks were becoming exposed. The fragrance of my existence. A few specimens were selected for students to look at: a rare Heptranchias perlo (sharpnose seven gill shark), a slightly distorted Carcharhinus plumbeus (sandbar shark), and a beautiful small Isurus oxhyrhynchus (mako shark). They were carefully place on the tub and strolled down a hallway to the classroom.
Lucky students. Lucky me.
Many thanks to Tony Harold for letting me sit in his class.