Monday, February 26, 2007

Counter of boiled dead fish larvae

alright, i guess an explanation's in order.

after my sophomore (2nd year) at college (uni), i got a job as an assistant in an envronmental laboratory at a nuclear power plant. the plant didn't have a cooling tower, it drew it's cooling water from Long Island Sound, ran it through a closed system, and dumped the boiling water back into the Sound. The lab's job was to assess the impact this had on the ichtheofauna (fish) of the surrounding water. We did this by dropping ultra fine nets into the water in front of the giant pipes where the hot (temp, not radioactive) water came out and collected many, many, many, many, many samples of the crap that came out with the water.

What we caught were shredded, boiled fish larvae and eggs. They had to be preserved in formaldehyde (yuk!), labelled, and analyzed under a microscope. I would take a jar, strain and rinse the formaldehyde and dump the contents (about a pint's worth of shredded fishy crap and plankton) into a dish and look at it carefully under a microscope. I would determine the species of the gross, boiled, shredded, disgusting dead baby fishes and record how many of what species and at what stage of development got fried by the system. also eggs. how many people do you know that can tell the species of a fish from it's egg? huh?? huh??? that's what i thought. (caviar don't count.)

Then we'd put the crap back into the formaldehyde, record the data, and stuff it all on a shelf somewhere so the Big Cheeses who own the plant can manipulate the numbers to prove that they're not destroying the fish population of the Sound.

When I took the job Ithought I would be doing good, solid, environmental research. I didn't realize that I would be used to justify the continuation of an abominable environmental practice brought about because the residents of the extremely posh nearby communities didn't their costal views spoilt by a giant cooling tower, which would then lower their property values. So we commit genocide on the fish instead. Fair trade.

I suppose I could have described the job as "lab assistant," or even "corporate whore," but that just wouldn't generate the same intrigue as "counter of boiled fish larvae," would it? :)

9 comments:

Barnes said...

I have a friend who for the duration of his Chemistry doctorate spent the working day with his hand submerged in a vat of rat urine.

You are very lucky, CB.

Spinsterella said...

Gosh.

Although, with no scientific knowledge whatsoever, I would imagine that pouring lots of boiling water into a river isn't a good idea.

Poor little fishes.

Chaucer's Bitch said...

Barnes: I don't know about that. At least rat piss isn't a Class A carcinogen. I'm going to get cancer and die because of that job! Also, I'd be willing to wager that rat piss doesn't stink as bad as formaldehyde, either.

Spin: see, that's my point exactly. It doesn't take an expert to figure out that dumping metric tons of boiling water into Long Island Sound is a Bad Idea. I feel dirty.

llewtrah said...

In microbiology I worked with "shits and spits" (faeces, vomit and sputum cultures) and pus and pee cultures. Lovely way to spend the working day.

The Hopeless Romantic said...

Thanks for explaining that. However, I'm now just as interested in the "Professional rock-shoveller" job. Was this a stretch of hard labour???????

Mr Farty said...

I had a friend who used to boast that he burned legs for a living. He worked in the incinerator room at an orthopaedic hospital, so when anyone got their limbs sawn off, yup. Lovely.

CB - I've finally made my header image slightly less annoying. Blogger seems to resist images above a certain size or resolution, so you might want to use a small, simple gif and then change no-repeat to repeat.
Email me at MrFarty@blueyonder.co.uk if you really think I have a clue what I'm talking about.
;->

First Nations said...

damn, even at the boondoggle that was the wpps project they had to run the water through cooling units before returing it to the columbia. and even then the environmentalists had a cow because it tended four degrees higher than the natural average.

my first political cause back in 1972 and I still remember this stuff...

Billy said...

It all makes sense now. Phew!

ZB said...

I liked the old layout...

Been a corporate whore. Thought there was more to life than making lots of money and spending it. Went back to uni to do a Phud. Working harder than ever for less pay. Realised I was wrong.