Date: Mon, 13 Oct 2003 22:11:50 +1300
Reply-To: Conchologists of America List <CONCH-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Sender: Conchologists of America List <CONCH-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
From: Andrew Grebneff <andrew.grebneff@STONEBOW.OTAGO.AC.NZ>
Subject: Re: Poecilogeny Pocoelogony Poecilogony; Cirsotrema blainei
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Here's a good idea... how about other listees telling us a bit about
>Hi Again, Andrew!
>How about some autobiographical data? I know of your expertise from
>your postings, but I don't know if you are a professional
>malacologist or paleontologist. Your postings reveal quite a fund of
>knowledge, so I suspect you are a professional, but I know only a
>little more about you, from the way you sign your messages. I would
>like to get to know the "man behind the scientific terms."
>only a dedicated amateur but always willing to learn.
Well, I can't really claim to be a professional. Two things stopping
me: bad memory and lack of relevant employment.
As an 8-year-old kid in Victoria, BC, Canada in 1967-68, I became
interested in shells when a Polish uncle from San Francisco bought me
a bag of shells at one of the two local undersea worlds (the Undersea
Gardens). I was hooked!
My maternal grandmother in San Francisco would buy shells at the
planetarium in Golden Gate Park and send them to me, so still at age
8 I had Tibia fusus etc.
After a few years I began collecting my own specimens, and soon was
taking living ones. I dropped "common" names when I was about 9 or 10.
We moved to Blenheim, NZ (NE corner of the South Island) in beginning
1974, when I was 13, and the 3 weeks we spent in Fiji on the way was
good for my collection, and introduced me to those fascinating,
problematic and grossly-overlooked ellobiids.
In 1979 I began study at the University of Otago in Dunedin, about
700km south of Blenheim, intending to major in zoology. Failing in
chemistry canned that, though I passed geology, so I changed to
paleontology. Well, I bombed-out at the end of 1980 (though I did
well at paleo). So I spent 6 monthe carrying sacks of wet gravel in
the rain & hail up forest hillsides to build a walking track, then 2
years assembling the most crap-quality washers and dishwaters you can
imagine, and then quit... just couldn't take the work, environment or
management any more.
Over a year on the dole, then the Labor Dept rang to ask if I'd like
a 6-month job preparing a fossil dolphin. So I spent 6 months on this
wee skull, plus a frost-shattered one from Antarctica. We also
collected a meter-long "sharktoothed dolphin" skull, a rather
crocodilian-looking thing, just before the job finished. Then 6
months on the dole and then another call... and I prepared that big
skull. Then my boss, one of the world'sfew major fossil whale
workers, got a National Geographic grant, and I've been there ever
since. Funding is harder to get now, but I seem never to be off work
for more than a month or two between grants. Currenty I am about to
start molding and casting a 2-meter "missing-link" skull for display
at the National Science Museum in Tokyo! That one will HAVE to be
This job has been great for my fossil mollusc collection! When I
started work I didn't know many fossil localities, and that section
of my collection was very small. But I visited quite a few in the
course of hunting fossil whales (most such localities only preserve
the calcitic taxa Mytilidae, Pinnidae, Ostreidae, Anomiidae,
Pectinidae, Propeamussiidae, Epitoniidae).
Now I have thousands of specimens, one of probably the 7 major fossil
mollusc collections in the country, and I guess am regarded by the
local molluscan authorities as a sort of colleague (HEY! What's with
the rotten tomatoes, you guys!).
My collections live in map-cabinets; those specimens too large for
the drawers by default go into a small glass-fronted cabinet.
I have often gone dredging on the Zoology Dept's (now it is with the
new Marine Science Dept's) 14m trawler "Munida", named after the
"lobster-krill" Muinda. It takes a few hours to run down the harbor
and out to sea; the canyons begin about 19km offshore. The dredge
(usually an Agassiz "trawl") goes down, spends a few minutes on the
bottom, then up it comes. It's hoisted above the fantail and the
end-rope is yanked, opening the end of the net and dumping the
contents onto the deck. Then it's nose-down into the smelly grunge.
Actually, the canyons yield the odd flattened rock, a few loose
shells in an otherwise empty dredge, or else a whole heap of gray
mud. Shovel the mud into polypails for later processing; this stuff
is full of micros. Shelly grunge comes from the shelf, composed
mainly of broken bryozoa and masses of Zygochlamys delicatula, with
hundreds of living Astraea heliotropium.
Because of this dredging, and the lack of good intertidal collecting,
my Recent collection now is rather biased toward shells from 70-600m
depth. It contains literally dozens of new species and at least one
I have no problems numbering fossils, and for this U use a 0.18 or
0.25mm Rotring or preferably Faber Castell drawing pen with Rotring
India ink; I number gastropods within the labrum (outer lip), and
with the 0.18 pen can do so with many gastropods under 1cm in length.
Bivalves I number in the middle of the valve's interior. Incomplete
specimens or others I cannot label in the usual places I number
somewhere as inconspicuous as possible; specimens still embedded in
matrix I mark on the matrix. Those too small for numbering go into
vials with laserprinted numbered labels with exacting data (the same
labels I put in the trays with larger specimens).
I cannot bring myself to number Recent specimens. This is partly for
esthetic reasons, but mainly because I treat most shells with
paraffin oil as a preservative, and this is incompatible with oil.
Therefore all small specimens go into vials; larger ones are
cataloged using dimensions to 2 decimal places, with a description of
identifying characteristics of the specimen (healed breaks can be
Currently cleaning a lot of 61 Perotrochus hirasei I picked up SO cheaply...