Great Job on the DonorsChoose drive, folks! The DrugMonkey Blog Science-Up the Schools Challenge is doing well with $422 raised from 16 donors. This latter makes me very happy since we're hanging in there in the top three on the ScienceBlogs board in terms of number of donors. We're in difficult times and my readers are often grad students and postdocs who don't have a lot to give anyway but I love to see people getting involved and endorsing the importance of science in elementary and secondary education. Keep it coming! Every $5 or even $1 donation moves a project closer to funding. Some of them are backed by matching funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation so you might even leverage your kick-down.
I mentioned that I'd be giving out some Donor Appreciation Awards from the DM cafepress shop, so you can look like these cool people. In addition, the ScienceBlogs homeworld is kicking in some incentives:
For those of you who are participating in the DonorsChoose Social Media Challenge, please let your readers know, if you haven't already, that they can forward their donation receipt to email@example.com for a chance to win some Swag Bags from ScienceBlogs, complete with Seed moleskin notebooks and tote bags, ScienceBlogs mugs and USB drives, and books from Yale University Press and Oxford University Press - we'll draw a winner ... every week in October.
Today I wanted to give you a little extra food for thought as you consider your donation, by highlighting the When are We Going to Dissect project. This is from a high-poverty magnet high-school located in North Carolina and the proposal reads:
Biology is a state tested EOC course. Students must score a level III or IV in order to graduate. Teaching at a high-need school with a limited budget has resulted in a lack of supplies. As a result, I must find alternative ways to perform labs. Sometimes these labs are successful and other times they are not.
In order to show cell specialization and body systems, my students need to complete dissections. I have not been able to complete dissections every year due to the lack of preserved organisms. My students need preserved minks for dissections in order to simulate an important goal in the Biology curriculum.
Your help will ensure that my students will understand the concept body systems and cell specialization. In addition, your help will assist students in gaining the knowledge and experience with laboratory equipment for Advanced Placement Biology and Human Anatomy/Physiology.
Mink, eh? Well, I jumped to the obvious conclusion and did some Googling to confirm. I won't post the links but the ARA websites certainly seem to indicate that these mink are sourced from fur farms. The vendor, Carolina Biological Supply, page on the dissection specimens does mention "ranch raised".
Although it is not absolutely confirmed*, for argument's sake let us consider these sourced from post-fur-harvest mink. I'll come right out and say that I do not have any need whatsoever for mink fur clothing, this is not something I support. However, the industry exists. The animals have been raised and killed for their fur...what next?
It is an essential part of many approaches to the responsible use of animals in research that we do what we can to maximize the outcome of each animal that is used. It is a long tradition for people to seek out other scientists who can use the animal tissues post-mortem, if your root project is only an in-vivo one. It may not be for every project but it happens frequently. Particularly when it comes to the more charismatic, USDA regulated species.
This maximum-use principle leads me to support the additional use of animal specimens which might otherwise simply be discarded, for creating dissection kits for school biology labs.
How do you view it,
*I was unable to get an email response to my question as to whether the specimen mink were the same individuals from whom fur had been harvested. As I said, the ARA sites seem to indicate that this is true.