30 July, 1999
Aloha from Hawaii,
I will be spending today and a few days next week in Dr. Radke's lab learning the procedures for the field work in Greenland or as Kevin Kelly, a graduate student on the project, affectionately says, cutting up fish heads. I arrived at the lab in the late morning. The University of Hawaii-Manoa is on the opposite side of the island, Oahu, that I live on. Oahu is the most populous island of the Hawaiian chain and was nicknamed long ago "the gathering place". You can visit the university on the following web site, http://www.uhm.hawaii.edu .
Dr. Radke and I had worked together previously in a project that teamed together students with physical dissabilities to regular education students to study Kahana Stream which was located in the watershed near the high school that I teach at, Kahuku High and Intermediate. Dr. Radke is a great role model because he himself is a quadrapeligic who hasn't let his handicap prevent him from being a research scientist. To know further about this program please visit his web site at http://pages.hotbot.com/kids/oceanofp/.
Dr. Radke and I disscussed our upcoming delay. We will be leaving a week later that planned due a time when we could all meet in Greenland. Two other researchers will be joining us, one from Canada and the other from Norway.
Then Dave, Dr Radke's doctoral student, showed us how to dissect out the otoliths. Each fish has 3 otoliths on each side of its body, right below the brain. It took me an hour to get down to the brain cavity. I didn't want to destroy the small pieces of bone that were the object of my search. We also have otoliths in our inner ear and they serve the same function, one of balance. There are crystals in these structures that move when we change position like a rattle. This change in pressure is relayed to the brain through nerves that are translated as a movement.
Finally I found the largest of the three structures, the sulcus on the right side. They are a delicate whitish opaque structure that resembles a tiny oyster shell. It was lodged in a small cavity under the brain. Then I located a similar cavity on the left side of the head and inside was the left sulcus. It was easier to find the second knowing where to look. Kevin and I were both wondering how quickly we will be able to do this when the temperature outside is 45 F. We were reassured that after the 50th fish we would be experts.
We looked at warm weather mittens and rubber gloves. I thought we might have to cut out the fingers so we can do such delicate work. I was also remembering how careful we were in Alaska not to throw foodstuffs around the campsite and realize we will have to be especially careful with tissue left after the dissections. Before I left the lab I washed my hands about four times to remove the fish smells. And then I did a final dousing with lemon juice, but on the way home I could still smell fish.
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