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The Squeal from Miss Vivi – February 2012

Well hello!

Here we are at the beginning of Term 1 for 2012.  I hope the summer has been kind to you and you're relaxed and raring to go.

Here at Dissection Connection we’re starting the year with a new price list.  You'll find it in the Downloads section of the website.  It’s in a slightly different format, hopefully organised to make it easier to use.  It's now in three section – specimens we try to keep in stock all the time, specimens we supply to order because there hasn't been a very high demand in the past, and specimens that are subject to availability.   Feel free to have a squeal if you have any comments about it.

There are some new dissection specimens really worth squealing about.  We've added a pluck with a pair of joined kidneys in the pack, porcine and bovine uterus are now available as stand alone items, entire piglets – which I've had a big squeal about further down this newsletter – and fresh boar semen just to name a few.

Over Christmas a styrofoam box manufacturer went out of business and consequently the remaining suppliers are having to pick up the slack.  This has meant that there are almost no small boxes to be had for re-use and we are having to buy them new.  They will cost $4.00 each for the time being, but hopefully everything will settle down later in the year and we will be able to start collecting recycled ones again.  The very large boxes we use have gone up to $6.50 each, but we can usually use a different shaped recycled one at a lower cost for you.

This year, too, Mr Vivi will be stepping up and taking on a bigger role at Dissection Connection.  I am still working at school Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays so I can't always answer the phone and sometimes it's just easier to leave it with him rather than keep you waiting.  He's been there from the beginning and he really knows his way around the freezer.

Finally, we're looking for guest writers for the website.  Have a look at the details in the article below.

toy pig

This little piggy…

went to Dissection Connection.  And now it can be sent to you as a fantastic alternative to rats when you need an entire specimen.  Sourced from a farm that is breeding pigs for meat, these piglets are stillborn or smothered by their litter in the stall.  As a specimen they are cheaper, cleaner and even closer to human anatomy than a rat and every piglet that is used in the classroom represents a rat that hasn't been bred and euthanased for science.  We currently have plenty in stock and you can specify which sex you would like – although the ratio of males to females that don't make it through the birth process is quite variable depending on the weather (really).  Keep an eye on the website for articles on these wonderful specimens. 

toy cow

Win a t-shirt

We're looking for guest writers.  If you're interested in being published online, or you know someone who is, send us an article for consideration.  You can write on anything related to:

  • science
  • anatomy
  • dissection
  • top tips for labbies and teachers
  • the state of education
  • or surprise us! 

The author of the best article published on the website in Term 1 will win a Show Us Your Lungs t-shirt. 

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Piglet Dissection Workshop at ConQEST 2012

Every year at the end of June we get to go to ConQEST and we always have a ball.

Trade display at ConQEST 2012
The Dissection Connection trade display at ConQEST 2012

This year we ran two workshops – a head dissection and a piglet dissection.  One of the workshoppers, a lab tech from Emerald, took some great photos of the piglet dissection and has been kind enough to let me share them here.

Step 1 – peg out the beastie on a tray using rubber bands around each foot.  Heather from Southern Biological showed me how to do this.

Displaying the specimen using rubber bands
Piglet dissection: a rubber band around each foot and looped behind the dissection tray will hold the piglet still for dissection

Step 2 – make a mid-sagittal incision in the skin

Start with a mid-sagittal incision
Piglet dissection: making the mid-sagittal incision

Step 3 – separate the skin from the muscle using a scalpel

Piglet dissection: Exposing the muscles under the skin
Piglet dissection: once the skin has been peeled back the muscles are exposed for examination
Piglet dissection: exposed tarsals
Piglet dissection: the tarsals exposed

Step 4 – locate the diaphragm and identify the organs of the thoracic cavity

Piglet dissection: examining the organs in the thoracic cavity
Piglet dissection: examining the heart in the thoracic cavity
Piglet dissection: the trachea
Piglet dissection: an incision can be made in the trachea and the lungs can be inflated with a syringe

Step 5 – identify the organs of the abdominal cavity

Piglet dissection: organs of the abdominal cavity
Piglet dissection: the liver and intestine inside the abdominal cavity
Piglet dissection: kidney exposed in the abdominal cavity
Piglet dissection: intestine removed and kidney exposed
Piglet dissection: examining the length of the small intestine
Piglet dissection: the small intestine removed and stretched out to demonstrate its length

So, there you have it. A good time was had by all and then we went to lunch – which is always fabulous at ConQEST.  See you there ‘in the flesh’ next year.
Miss Vivi

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Top dissection specimen as voted by students

Hey Miss Vivi, just had 2 classes (Year 12) do the pig dissection. They loved it! Rated it their top dissection.

They have also done shark, toad and rat and the pig is by far the most popular. It was wonderful to see every boy engaged and taking part.
Thank you – from the Year 12 Biol students and teachers at BGS!!!

– Christina Jensen, Brisbane Grammar School

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Stillborn piglet dissection

Stillborn piglet external view
Stillborn piglets make an excellent alternative to rats for dissection

This little piggy is the latest and greatest in whole animal dissection specimens.   They are either stillborn from large litters or smothered by the sow in the stall and come from a farm breeding pigs for meat.  They are usually disposed of as farm waste but we are collecting them and diverting them from the waste stream for dissection.  They are less smelly, cheaper, closer to human anatomy than a rat and aren’t being bred just to be euthanased for science, so each piglet used in the classroom represents a rat that hasn’t had to be put down.

Each piglet typically weighs 600-800g. The piglets are collected and frozen without any chemical preservatives which reduces your chemical exposure in the lab as well as eliminating a source of exposure to the kids in the classroom. It also makes the piglets safe to dispose of in landfill with other normal waste.

piglet dissection internal view
The organs of the stillborn piglet are clean and clearly identifiable

As they generally have not yet fed or only briefly suckled, the intestinal tract is pretty clean and there is little smell to the specimen.  Each organ can easily be identified and removed for further exploration.

piglet dissection internal closeup
Closeup view of the piglet urogenital system

The detail in the circulatory system of the piglets is particularly amazing. You can see in the photo above the veins and arteries of the urogenital system clearly visible.  Once the overlying organs were taken out, the spine was visible and a section could be removed to allow the spinal cord to be seen.

There is a lot more that can be explored with these specimens and we will be spending a lot of time working on them so we can develop some really good resources to allow you to get more bang for your buck.  In the meantime keep an eye out for workshop announcements that will give you the chance to get your hands on one.  We are expecting to be able to bring them to you at ConQEST 2012, if not before.

See you there,

Miss Vivi