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Gonads Saved by Social Media? Oh, yeah.

Posted by Richard Conniff on November 28, 2012

Gotta like this report on the perils of the biologist’s life, and incidentally, how weird it must be to live in Maine.  It’s from a University of Maine graduate student named Skylar Bayer, who, God bless her, studies invertebrate fertilization and blogs at strictlyfishwrap:

This is my version of what happened Monday.

That morning I drove up to Mount Desert Island to take care of a few things. The first item on my agenda was to have a meeting regarding my thesis progress. The second item was to recover scallop gonads that had been carefully collected and preserved by Andy Mays, a fisherman that I’ve been working with over the past year regarding my scallop reproduction work.

We agreed to meet at the Somesville One Stop, a gas station in Somesville, Maine. Andy had his kids that day, so he was running a pretty tight schedule. He saw a four-door blue Chevy with *official* University plates on it. The car was unlocked (only in Maine) and sans driver. He assumed it was my car and put the buckets of gonad sample jars in the back of the car.

Now, I was parked at the other end of the parking lot when I saw him drive across the street to where his next errand began. I walked over and he asked if I saw that he put the samples in the car. We both pointed to the spot where the blue car was parked and it was gone, as if in a movie or a sitcom, leaving us with the same “Holy-shit-did-that-just-happen” look on our face. You could still see its aura.

We both laughed nervously. I don’t think I could’ve even been angry because the situation was so ridiculous. All I could do was shrug my shoulders and all Andy could say was that his stuff always gets screwed up but always works out in the end. I went into the gas station and told the attendant what happened. She, too, had the same perplexed look on her face.

On my drive back I called my lab in an attempt to talk out and understand what the hell had just happened. I was in what I call ‘WTF-shock.’ My advisor had enough sense to tell me to call the Motor Pool at the University. I called them and then the CCAR program, the vice president of research and a few other graduate students up at Orono. My labmate up on the Orono campus went into the Motor Pool office asking around for me, too. It’s nice to know that in academia and science everyone completely appreciates the importance of your data and samples. It’s akin to the type of sympathy you’d receive if you’d lost a child or a pet.

Andy’s wife called me at work Tuesday afternoon. She informed me that she had told the police, posted on Facebook, informed the local radio stations and papers of the mixup so that hopefully all the media coverage would reveal what poor soul had my precious samples. Last night while at a conference in Portland I checked my Facebook page to find someone asking me if this was me. Ohmygod, I thought, I made it to Deep Sea News (at least my samples did, anyway).

This morning my friend up at Orono called me and asked if I’d read my e-mail yet. I said no, but I opened it up to find a message from the Motor Pool stating simply that my samples had been recovered by a teacher in the Education department. She had found out via a Facebook post and of course, my (scallop) gonads made it to the Bangor Daily News. And now, thanks to everyone involved, my ‘nads are making their way back to me!

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4 Responses to “Gonads Saved by Social Media? Oh, yeah.”

  1. Andy Mays said

    Skylar is “her”. I’m a commercial scallop diver and member of Maine’s Scallop Advisory Council. Skylar is doing the Lord’s work, trying to improve our understanding of scallop reproduction in spite of my knack for undermining her efforts by making her job more “interesting”.

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