Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Stone Soup Lab

Remember the old folk tale about stone soup? A hungry traveler comes to a village. Asking for food, he finds none. He decides that he will make stone soup, and with great ceremony sets up a boiling cauldron of water with a stone in it. Intrigued, the villagers one by one bring a few additions to the soup, until they have assembled a fine stew on which everyone feasts. It's a wonderful story of cooperation and making do with bits and snippets that are laying about. I've had a similar experience at work lately.

This is the room where we have been breeding our endangered butterflies. The photo was taken on February 27th. We had a lot of success last year, but the situation is far from ideal. One of the significant problems is the carpeted floor. Carpeting is a great place to harbor mold and bacterial spores, which can devastate growing caterpillars. We had a bit of grant money that could help the situation, and decided to rip up the carpeting and have a poured epoxy floor installed. That was the entire extent of the original plan.

Here's the new floor. Doesn't it look great? Robin, our intern, mentioned that she had a bunch of paint with mold inhibitors that would go well with the floor. That was great news, especially the mold inhibitors part. But we were just getting started.

One of our facilities staff mentioned that just behind the far wall were water lines and a drainpipe. There was a recently decommissioned stainless steel sink in the Museum kitchen upstairs. Would we like it installed in the room? My jaw dropped. Sinks in the Museum are a very precious commodity, and it's generally both difficult and extremely costly to have one installed. This is something that it would have never even occurred to me to wish for here. Cost to us: $0.

The room got painted and the sink got installed in less than 2 weeks. We were able to get some new wire shelving (easy to disinfect) and moved into the new lab about a week and a half ago.

We aren't completely done. The other side of the wall behind the wire shelves is a public corridor in the Museum. We will eventually have a window installed in the wall so that visitors can watch the endangered species breeding activities. Last week, the refrigerator with the regal fritallary caterpillars got transferred into the lab, and our caterpillars moved into their new home.

Stone soup, anyone?

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At 11:17, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh this is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

At 17:32, Blogger Mike said...

Looks great! Just don't release any gypsy moths.

At 18:02, Blogger Lemuel said...

It's always neat when you can upgrade your facilities to things you need by reusing available components and minimizing cost. Well done!

At 18:12, Blogger robin andrea said...

Your butterflies are going to be so happy. What a great way to put together a perfect lab for their emergence. Excellent.

At 18:42, Blogger Kathiesbirds said...

I used to read that story to my kids! It's a great one and how nice to hear it lived out in modern days! Your lab looks wonderful. I am so happy for you and the butterflies!

At 03:29, Blogger wcs said...

Very nice. It'll be even cooler when the window goes in.

At 05:40, Blogger cedrorum said...

You know that that room was always meant to be what it is now don't you? That is a lot of things to come together to just be coincidence. And I love the Larva Lounge. Very nice.

At 08:46, Blogger Doug Taron said...

liliannattel- I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Mike- Hi and welcome to the Tapestry. No gypsy moth release here. Illinois is part of the country where they are just moving in from further east and north. We don't need to add to that problem.

Lem- Thanks. That's the part of the story that I liked the best.

Robin- Thanks. I hope the butterflies will be happy. We'll know soon enough.

Kathie- I agree, it's fun how this is a modern-day version of a very old folk tale.

wcs- We're definitely looking forward to the window.

cedrorum- One might almost say that it's a case of Mutual Causality. I was hoping someone would notice the Larva Lounge sign.

At 11:35, Blogger Ur-spo said...

just don't stock no tartantulas. They make lousy stone soup.

At 18:38, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

Hmm. Maybe it's time for some osage-orange soup, lol...

At 18:42, Blogger orchidartist said...

What great synchronicity of generous people and ideas! Can't wait to see the results next time we visit!

Kathy G

At 17:24, Blogger Chilmarkgirl said...

it takes a village.....


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