Collecting and DNA Sampling in Tasmania
The purpose of this expedition was to collect tissue samples of as many different molluscan species as possible from different habitats along the coast of Tasmania. The fauna of this place has been studied mostly by amateur collectors in the past, but thorough research using modern approaches has never been conducted. This is revealed by the fact that one of the signature seashells of Tasmania, the cowry declivis dennyorum (see below) has only recently been been formally described. The trip lasted from the 27th of December 2013 to the 18th of January 2014. It was a cooperation between collaborators of the MSF (Dr. Felix Lorenz, Hugh Morrison), the Smithsonian, Washington (Dr. Ellen Strong), and the Museum National d'Historie Naturelle, Paris (MNHN - Prof. Philippe Bouchet).
The sampling was conducted on 50 different sites along the coast of Tasmania: From Nelson Bay in the northwest, across the western half of the north coast, from Garden Point in the northeast, to Gordon in the southeast. Five different stations with laboratories were set up for a period of 4 to 6 days each: Hobart, White Beach, St Helens, Stanley, and Orford. Two hired cars were used for daily excursions. Morrison and Lorenz were mainly doing the diving below the intertidal mark. This included hand collecting, fanning sand, turning rocks, as well as gathering seaweed and sand samples using a device called the "Blue Box", which is a container with several layers of mesh allowing the segregation of fine silt, sand, and micro-molluscs from rocks and weeds under water.
For the diving, we took 14 cylinders (steel and aluminium), as tank-fills are not available in many places along the Tasmanian coast. We used 5 mm neoprene suits with hooded vests to protect us from the 15 to 16°C cold water, strong gloves, and 22 to 25 pound weight belts. Philippe and Ellen were collecting intertidally, turning rocks and using brushes and sieves.