Being a scientist, especially in the field, often requires finding ingenious solutions to unexpected problems. These solutions can come from a variety of places, including everyday objects repurposed to fit the scientific objective of an experiment in process.
One of these situations had a biologist employ tea strainers to conduct an experiment on ants. He wanted to see the interaction between two ant colonies, without the ants escaping. By placing one group in a tea strainer, he achieved this result. And he left a pretty positive review on Amazon.
The review was spotted by Robyn Womack, a graduate student in zoology, and it did not take long before people decided that leaving reviews of “unusual” science equipment was going to be a lot of fun.
The variation of everyday objects used for science is astounding. For example, floss is used to capture small lizards in the tropics, while hair dryers can be used to help float crab treadmills. Did you know that biologists struggled to get mosquitos to mate in the lab before using Christmas lights as mood lighting? And to remain in a festive theme, they also report that turkey basters are an excellent tool to collect mosquito larvae.
The hashtag #reviewforscience has hundreds of these examples. Rubber mallets are useful when pitching a tent, but also to efficiently pulverize freeze-dried leopard poop (and we are informed that it also works for cheetah excrement). Vibrators are not just for pleasure, they can also be used to lure spiders out of their dens – a fact that puts the daddy long legs spider name in a completely different light.
Canvas sacks and pillow cases have been used to safely store bats and gulls, but the true creative genius is in the way scientists have used certain containers to weigh animals. Tranquillized badgers and animals of similar sizes can be weighed using the iconic IKEA blue bags. Geese can be weighed in the classic plastic lemonade carafes, while tiny birds can fit comfortably in old film canisters.
I think all these scientists should be proud of both their practicality and sense of humor.