Sunday, July 1, 2018

ANSP Internship–The beginning

One of the things I was really excited about for the summer was the opportunity to work as a summer intern in the Ichthyology Dep. at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. 

One of my teachers, Dr. Clark, knew someone who used to work there and urged me to contact him, as he knew I had a passion for fish and the natural sciences. I got in touch with Dr. L, Dr. Clark's acquaintance, and he pointed me to Dr. S.

After several conversations with Dr. S, we came to an agreement for me to work several weeks at the Academy.

This would be the start of a wonderful experience; one that would foster my personal development in addition to being exciting and fulfilling.

June rolled around, and it was time for me to head to Philly. I had never lived alone in a big city for such an extended period of time before, so I was happy to see how I would fare in a new environment. I had found a college dorm that a student was sub-leasing for the summer in a great location that allowed me to walk pretty much anywhere I needed to go. Still, it was a lot of walking. I regret not bringing a bike, and going back home to get one was not worth the effort. 

The first couple days at ANSP was primarily a learning experience for me. Although I have a strong passion for fish, with regards to ichthyology I have barely scratched the surface.

I spent much of my time reading publications and books and learning fish skeletal anatomy.

I also familiarized myself with the software that I would be using in the future to digitally dissect and label CT scans of fishes too small to clear and stain or physically dissect. This method of analyzing a species' morphology provides clearer data to make distinctions between specimens based off of morphology.

My favorite part of the Academy were the collections: There were walls upon walls filled with jars of preserved fishes. I had never seen anything remotely like it, and each jar was just as fascinating as the next.

One particular specimen from one of the oldest collections in the Academy caught my eye: the label read Catostomus elongates. The reason it caught my eye was that I wasn't aware of any such species existing. Upon opening the box, however, it became clear that this was Cycleptus elongatus, the blue sucker, but the specimen was so old, that at the time taxonomists had placed it in the Catostomus genus with the long nose and white suckers. Incredible.

 Ah, yes: reading. 

When I had some free time I would walk over to the Fairmount dam and watch Northern Snakeheads (Channa argus) swim in the heaving current by the surface. What they were doing is unclear, but they would not respond to any lures the local fisherman were throwing at them. Several were snagged, however, and tossed onto the bank.

 I spotted a cheeky longnose gar on one of the statues in the city. 

Some of the structures I was studying. 

A coelacanth replica mount in the department library, where I would spend much of my time reading or doing an errand of sorts.

As  nonnative as they are (just like almost every other fish in the river, btw), you hate to see wanton waste like this. 

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