Thursday, 21 March 2013

The Prep Room

By now you will have gathered by the somewhat irregularity of my posts that I am a little busy right now. There are so many things on the go at the moment that it has been a case of having to prioritise what needs to be done first and, unfortunately, the blog suffers as a result but I hope this will eventually sort itself out and I will be able to blog regularly again real soon.
However, one task that I have been busy with is the setup of a preparation room that is slowly beginning to take shape. This is not a large laboratory by any means but, when it is finished, will provide a good quality work station for one technician and will provide enough room and facilities accordingly.
This facility has been designed to work on material already extracted from their jackets or indeed those that are in smaller, more manageable jackets that can be satisfactorily handled by one technician. As a result the space needed to extract specimens out of a jacket is small in comparison to those in the larger facilities that may sometime deal with extremely large and heavy blocks. I am currently looking at a mobile bench arrangement that needs to be strong and will probably be a form of scissor lifting table which will be of  benefit to both  the technician  and the specimen but,  in truth, this should be seldom required.
The workspace itself is spacious and well set out. Because of the nature of the specimens that will be prepared the technician will be able to use the one space for the majority of the preparation. There is room for a microscope and there will be a flat screen mounted on one side to stream images which will be incredibly useful. If you are considering a similar set up then remember to provide the screen with appropriate protection since one stray piece of matrix can cause substantial damage which most labs can ill afford!
Adequate ventilation and extraction is provided and the prep room is remarkably temperature stable and humidity virtually non-existent. There is ample space provided for a variety of tools close to hand. A separate space is provided for the various glues and consolidants but this too is close to the operative and easily accessible.
At SVP last year Greg Brown, of the University of Nebraska State Museum, discussed the various merits of different lighting for microvertebrate preparation and this too is being looked at. As well as conventional illumination, we will be experimenting with LED’s (which have received mixed reaction) and will definitely be using polarised lighting in one form or another.  Unfortunately, the room has no windows or natural light which is a shame since I know from experience that you can often discern detail in this light that can be occasionally missed by other light sources.
Seating is another high priority that has yet to be finalised. It is not enough to simply have an operators chair and believe that is that. So many things need to be considered including ergonomic design, practicality and that it provides adequate support and comfort to the technician. Poor posture needs to be eradicated as much as possible and the correct seat will help do this. Ensuring regular breaks from repetitive operations will benefit any preparator and the technician must be encouraged to manage themselves accordingly. It goes without saying that personal protective equipment (PPE) is available and includes safety glasses and face masks as standard.
Aside from the practical side of things there is also the paperwork side of things to maintain but this will not be situated in the prep room and is located more or less next door where there is a computer, files, records and both camera and video equipment for the entire project.
So all in all this should be a simple but practical preparation set up and will help us be more progressive as we continue our research into our chosen subjects. Despite marine reptiles featuring heavily in preparation there just might be the odd fish and dinosaur from time to time so it will be a good idea to watch this space because there is definitely some very interesting material coming up for prep. 


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