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Top Tip: live sperm in the classroom

This is a guest post by Deb Barnett who was the lab tech at the first school to order live boar semen.  This post puts Deb in the running to win our t-shirt competition.

The kids love it!!

It gave us a relevant and interesting resource for the unit. We even had the most disengaged student managing the microscope and getting the best view of the goings on the slide.

The sample maintained viability through the week even though the ice brick had defrosted on arrival and it was warmer than the suggested 15-20 degC in the esky. Arrival time was approx. 12.10pm Monday. I followed the recommended storage conditions throughout.

Just a few notes on how the prac was run here….  A small vial and dropping pipette (1 for each class) was placed in the incubator at 38degC until required. When the class had set up the ‘scopes and warmed their slide between their hands, I aliquoted approx 1mL into a vial and took it straight to class where the teacher kept it warm in their hand whilst walking around the lab putting 1 drop directly on the slide for each group. No “lab accidents”

So, thanks again – a good time was had by all.

Good luck with the business, you’ve certainly hit the spot with it!



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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.