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Flat Stanley Explores Science @ Cal!

The science community at UC Berkeley is delighted to celebrate the Year of Science 2009 with the Flat Stanley Project! Throughout the year, Flat Stanley will visit lots of Cal scientists to learn about their research. Follow his adventures as he travels around campus from lab to lab and out into the field—exploring all kinds of scientific pursuits!

Where is Flat Stanley now?

Flat Stanley visits the Prep Lab at the
Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkeley

Ms. Konle’s 5th grade class at Havens Elementary School sent me on an adventure to the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Here in the prep lab, dead animals (that people find on the road or in their backyards) come in to be prepared as research specimens. These animals eventually end up in the museum where scientists can come and study them.

This is a picture of (left to right) Sharon Lee, Monica Albe, and Shanna Tucker– and of course, I, Flat Stanley am in the middle! Monica is the manager of the Prep Lab and a Senior Museum Scientist. She introduced me to some of the students she works with.

I told the students in the prep lab (shown here: Shanna Tucker, Hannah Park, and Sharon Lee) that I was interested in learning more about the circulatory system and so they decided to teach me about animal hearts.

The first heart they showed me was a frog heart. You see, human hearts (as in all mammals) have four chambers to them. Frogs are amphibians and their hearts only have three chambers! Their blood coming from their lungs and coming from the rest of their bodies isn’t as separated as in our bodies.

Then Monica and the students showed me the heart of a giant lizard related to the Komodo Dragon. Lizards are reptiles and their hearts have three chambers too. This means that their blood coming from their lungs and coming from the rest of their bodies isn’t as well separated as it is in our bodies – but it’s better than in amphibians. This is because in the bottom center chamber has a little partial wall coming up the middle of it and this helps to keep the blood coming from the body and lungs separate.

Next Monica showed me the heart of a mammal. This one is from a skunk! The heart is the dark red thing in the center and surrounding it are all the lobes of the skunk’s lungs. Mammals have four chambers in their hearts, and this keeps the oxygenated blood coming from the lungs and getting pumped to the parts of the body COMPLETELY SEPARATE from the un-oxygenated blood coming from the body and getting pumped to the lungs. This means mammals (and that’s us too!) have very efficient circulatory systems. We also have higher metabolisms than reptiles and amphibians.

Next, Sharon showed me how to prepare a bird skeleton. First you need the original information about the bird, pens, a tissue vial, a label for the skeleton, and tools!

First I helped Sharon take external measurements, and then we removed all the skin and feathers from the bird. Boy did it look a lot smaller without all of its feathers!

Next we had to open up the body and see what was inside! The yellow stuff is fat, this was a very fatty bird! Above the fat is the stomach and liver, and above that underneath the sternum is the heart. Bird hearts also have four chambers, and they have efficient circulatory systems and higher metabolisms than reptiles and amphibians too. In fact, some birds have higher metabolisms and more efficient circulatory systems than us!

Sharon and I then took tissue samples from the bird, so that scientists could do molecular analyses on them. We took a piece of the bird’s heart, liver, muscle, and kidneys.

We then removed all the rest of the bird’s guts and attached a tag. We recorded all the different things we did on our data sheet and then we were all finished! The next step is for the skeleton to dry (with all the meat on it) and be fed to the lab’s flesh eating beetles. Once the skeleton is cleaned by the bugs, it’s ready for scientists to study it!

Next Sharon let me hold a Anna’s Hummingbird skin. It was very soft. She told me that hummingbirds have really fast metabolisms and incredible circulatory systems. Their hearts take up most of the inside of their bodies!! They are very strong and pump very fast.

Thanks to the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology and the Prep Lab for letting me visit. I learned so much and had a lot of fun!

Recent Flat Stanley Adventures

Flat Stanley Visits the CDMS Soudan Underground Lab
Flat Stanley Visits The Space Sciences Laboratory
Flat Stanley Visits The University of Hawai’i, Manoa
Flat Stanley Visits The Museum of Vertebrate Zoology
Flat Stanley Visits The Bergman Lab at UC Berkeley College of Chemistry
Flat Stanley Visits The Animal Facility at UC Berkeley
Flat Stanley Visits The Biological Imaging Facility at UC Berkeley
Flat Stanley Visits The Plant Gene Expression Center
Flat Stanley Visits The Dawson Lab at UC Berkeley
Flat Stanley Visits The UC Museum of Paleontology
Flat Stanley Visits a Principles of Paleontology Class
Flat Stanley Visits Lupe the Mammoth at the UC Museum of Paleontology
Flat Stanley Visits The Keck Telescopes in Hawaii

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