Field of Science

Who took the preserved ginkgo?

Specimens are always a problem, and how can you teach students about organisms if you can't put the organism, or at least significant pieces thereof, into their hot little hands?  Let's say you want your students to understand the reproductive structures of a ginkgo, using them to compare to those of conifers, so you have to have specimens.  Now with this in mind, TPP had collected pollen cones and ovulate structures from ginkgo trees and preserved them in ethanol, two half gallon jars of pickled ginkgo, enough to last for years.  The other reason this is necessary is that ginkgo trees don't produce these structures except once a year, usually in the last week of the semester on average, and the lab class is always at a different time of year.  So you go to the cupboard, and there's only one jar; it says ovulate ginkgo on the lid's label, but it's actually pollen cones. Where the bloody hell is the other jar?  Someone used them, and accidentally switched the lids, but for reasons as yet undetermined, did not replace the other jar.  The problem with this is that by the time you figure this out, it's too late.  Even if this had been know at the beginning of the semester, it makes no difference because you can't just go out and buy pickled reproductive structures of ginkgo.  They're only good for just one thing, teaching, and nobody who teaches knows anything.  Something is very suspicious, very suspicious indeed.  There are only so many classes that would use such specimens, and only certain people instruct those classes, so the number of suspects is pretty finite.  Some wandering gypsies didn't make off with them and no ransom notes have been received.  Ginkgo?  Oh, yeah, them trees.  Seems my colleagues have pretty good alibis or very convenient memories.  Guess some things should be kept under lock and key, but TPP is just so trusting.  Now to remember that new specimens are needed when the ginkgo pollination season rolls around again. 

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