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Compare the digestive systems of a ruminant and a monogastric animal

It’s that time of year again when this beast rears it’s ugly head: compulsory practical comparing the digestive systems of a ruminant animal and a monogastric animal.

I know it’s been put into the curriculum, but in typical Biro Pilot fashion the writers of the curriculum didn’t consult with the industry stakeholders on whether this was actually reasonably possible. Spoiler alert: it’s not.

Not only have we discussed the issues with transporting a bucket of farts in a truck before, we now have the added complications of:

  1. long term drought right around the country
  2. the 2019-2020 bushfires that wiped out 1/3 of the national sheep population
  3. the utter devastation of farmland and infrastructure in the fire affected areas

So, what about monogastric gastros?

As yet we aren’t experiencing any trouble with sourcing the gastros from pigs for our GIT specimen, but we are closely watching the pork industry. In the last 12 – 18 months the industry has rapidly been reducing the number of pigs in production.

This is a backlash from about 5 years ago when pork prices were really high so every farmer and his son went into pig production. The oversupply then forced prices down and everyone changed their minds about growing pigs. Now there is a national shortage and even butchers were having trouble getting enough to keep up with Christmas orders last year.

Added to that the potential threat from African Swine Fever and we’ve got a perfect storm for the Australian pork industry.

What’s Miss Vivi going to do about it?

Well, Mr Vivi is going to keep it sweet with the suppliers that we have on the team and we’re going to support the pork and lamb industry the best way we know how – by buying their stuff as often as we can. As they say, “don’t clap, throw money!”. You can support that too by working with us so the money flows into those towns that really, really need it right now. Don’t ever forget that every family needs a farmer.

Miss Vivi is going to keep supporting you by finding resources you can actually use in the classroom to keep your teachers sweet. So far I’ve found this little gem of a presentation by Bryan Simmons on Prezi. It’s pretty good for a virtual resource. Just click through to the website and use the arrows under the image to click through the slides.

Nothing beats the smell of the real thing, though, does it?

post by miss vivi at dissection connection
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Compare the digestive systems of a monogastric and a ruminant animal

porcine stomach

” Investigate and compare the digestive systems of a monogastric and a ruminant animal, using real or virtual examples”

YES it is part of the new syllabus in QLD and it is listed as a mandatory practical – but they wrote it without consulting anyone in the industry.

Sheep stomachs are not only difficult to get, they are impossible to package.

They are difficult to get because they are hard to transport. Nobody wants a bucket full of sheep farts in their meat truck

Because of their diet and digestive processes, the stomach continues to inflate with gas long after it is removed from the animal. By the time it gets to me I can’t get it into a bag, let alone into the cryovac machine. We have found in the past that freezing doesn’t stop it – it just keeps getting bigger.

Pig stomachs are a different story. We often have a couple in the freezer. They look like Lady Gaga’s handbags.

porcine stomach

In the meantime have a look at this nice little slideshow online comparing the two.

post by miss vivi at dissection connection

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A WTF is that moment in the pluck bucket

Switch to virtual dissections, they said!
It’ll be fine, they said!
It’s all fun and games until someone loses a kidney. Even I had a WTF is that moment in the pluck bucket yesterday – after 20 years of looking at them.

galline pluck from dissection connection

This article about a surgeon that mistook a kidney for a tumour in a patient and removed it popped up in my Facebook feed today. You can read the full story here.  I don’t know how or where the surgeon was educated, but I do often hear from those in the classroom that virtual is the way of the future.  However – that isn’t what I hear from actual health care professionals. The support for dissection from the people you are relying on when you are sick don’t support virtual dissection as the only tool for learning gross anatomy.

We genuinely are all unique in our own ways and I want a doctor that has had some actual meat in their hands before they get to mine. How about you????

If we don’t keep the community generally educated in science then the need for science education becomes less valued by society. That can lead to mistakes like this happening and that can have very real consequences for real people and their families.

So I’m setting you a challenge. Do a virtual dissection online. Do the best one you can get Google to give you. Do it as many times as you like. Then dissect the real thing. I guarantee you that you will find it easier than going in without any pre-study at all, but I also guarantee you that you will have moments when you think “hang on, what am I looking at here?” and have to work a bit harder to get the full picture.

Now put yourself in the shoes of your average kid in Junior Science. They deserve a fighting chance at understanding their bodies properly so they can make good decisions later in life – especially if they find themselves hanging over you with a scalpel in their hand one day.


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An eye for an eye

Mr Vivi passes on the tricks of the trade to a couple of budding scientists

Everything I ever learned about this job, I learned from a more experienced Labbie.

4 years of chemistry at Uni meant I could set up a distillation apparatus with my eyes closed and perform multiple titrations in the blink of an eye, but it didn’t teach me to leap tall piles of washing up in a single bound or remember to check if the copper sulphate I’d grabbed off the shelf was anhydrous or not.  I’d always had a labbie nearby to do that for me. Not that I’d ever really noticed.

When I started my first school job I had Andy to look after me, then there was Julie at the next one, followed by Jill at the next.  If I ever needed them, and I frequently did, there was also an army of experienced people available via the LABBIES discussion list, or the LabLINK newsletter or the QEST committee.  That’s how I know how to get a piece of tube through a rubber stopper without jamming it into my hand, how to nurse a microscope through to the next service and how to store eyeballs in the freezer for the next time I need them.

So, when I had a call from a Labbie new to the job recently I was happy to be able to pass on some of the tricks of the trade.  She started the conversation with,

“I’m not sure if you’re going to want to tell me or not, but I’m going to have a few eyeballs left over after the prac and I want to know if I can freeze them for next time.”

I will always be happy to help you get more bang for your buck out of our specimens. It’s my experience that education in Queensland is under valued and horribly under-funded, and that is probably the case in most states of Australia.

So, don’t be shy.  Get in touch and ask away.  And if you have a tip to share then let your colleagues in on the secret.  You just never know when you might need one of them to return the favour.

Miss Vivi


By the way, place your eyeballs lens down in a container or petri dish and cover them with 0.9% saline then store in the freezer until you need them.  A quick soak in saline will also plump up any specimens that have dried out a bit in the freezer and get them looking better before you put them into the classroom.