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The story of one woman's quest to photograph spider genitalia.
November 1, 2011 4:02 PM   Subscribe

The story of one woman's quest to photograph spider genitalia. By day, Nina is online operations manager for American Medical News, a newspaper published by the American Medical Association. But for 13 years, she’s devoted one day a week to behind-the-scenes work at the Field Museum in Chicago: sorting, identifying, and organizing spiders in the museum’s collections, and in the process turning an enthusiast’s knowledge about arachnids into a slightly demented personal project.

...

Most volunteers and students don’t have the “erigo-knowledge” that Nina has gradually built up, while academicians can’t spare time from the molecular work and phylogenetic tree-making that their publications require. So now the arachnid collections of America are benefited by the efforts of an amateur who is weirdly dedicated, relatively knowledgeable—and a little bit insane.
posted by srboisvert (42 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Everybody's got a dream.
posted by leotrotsky at 4:07 PM on November 1, 2011


*fap fap fap*
posted by sfts2 at 4:11 PM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Something on the SciAm Blogs page makes my Chrome hurt. THEREFORE, WITHOUT EVEN READING THE ARTICLE I PUT ON MY ROBE AND WIZARD HAT.
posted by carsonb at 4:14 PM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Pictures or it didn't happen
posted by roboton666 at 4:14 PM on November 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


Paging Alice Russel-Wallace to the spider phone...Spider-wrangling needed in aisle 3.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:15 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


That is one glorious title for the article.
posted by litleozy at 4:19 PM on November 1, 2011


Hmf. When I discussed spider sex and pedipalps at length on Twitter everone started unfollowing me...
posted by Artw at 4:22 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I used to chat with a woman who spent some of her research time inflating the genitals of ladybirds to aid identification. I thought it must be a wonderful thing to list on a CV.
posted by Jehan at 4:22 PM on November 1, 2011


Endless forms most beautiful indeed. No, really--I'm staggered by the variety in that link roboton666 posted. It is genuinely amazing.
posted by IjonTichy at 4:24 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Excellent article. I'd come across the photo database before, but didn't know that the person behind it was doing it as a part time thing.
posted by dhruva at 4:31 PM on November 1, 2011


So now the arachnid collections of America are benefited by the efforts of an amateur who is weirdly dedicated, relatively knowledgeable—and a little bit insane.

Weirdly dedicated, relatively knowledgeable, and slightly insane amateurs - the kind of people that will fully commit themselves and do the hell out of work that wouldn't even occur to anyone else.

Bless 'em.

I salute you, weirdly dedicated, knowledgeable, insane amateurs. I'm positive several of you are here right now.
posted by louche mustachio at 4:51 PM on November 1, 2011 [19 favorites]


Oh wow! Where to start....

1) Gifted 'amateurs' are the most under-rated members of the taxonomic community, but these folks have more knowledge on obscure topics than you can poke a pair of tweezers at. Case in point: I have the privilege to know an amateur expert who focuses his attentions on the funnel web spiders and other mygalomorph spiders that populate his back garden, swimming pool and the bush his house backs onto. He was a pharmacist in a country town, but now he is an expert on a subset of spider populations and he observes EVERYTHING. I've long known that spider burrows have a certain smell, but this bloke can smell the spiders from a distance... seriously.

2) Spider porn is SUCH a huge field. My honours thesis contained night-vision photographs of a menage a trois between two male huntsman spiders and one female huntsman spider (Family: Sparassidae). As you can see from the photos in the FFP, there are two openings to the genetalia of female spiders, which means that two males can inseminate the female - one on each side.
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 4:54 PM on November 1, 2011 [15 favorites]


I used to chat with a woman who spent some of her research time inflating the genitals of ladybirds to aid identification. I thought it must be a wonderful thing to list on a CV.

1997-2002: Bug fluffer
posted by unigolyn at 4:55 PM on November 1, 2011 [16 favorites]


i spent that same time eating cheese burgers and getting drunk watching reruns of star gate so you answer me who is the real winner here
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:57 PM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd come across the photo database before

Woah, man. Too munch info.
posted by cmoj at 5:07 PM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Does anyone else have visions of amazing NSFW Far Side cartoons dancing in their heads, or is that just me?
posted by louche mustachio at 5:09 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Huh. I was just reading a story of one woman's quest to photograph a squirrel playing the piano.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:12 PM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have to admit, I'm kind of turned on by these succulent labia.
posted by troll at 5:22 PM on November 1, 2011


I know someone who is making a database of animal hairs taken from arctic parkas and photographed under a microscope. You'd think that would be a rather esoteric project but, surprise surprise, people trying to figure out what kind of animal pelts were used to make their various museum pieces are find it very useful. I'm trying to figure out what obscure hobby of mine might be valuable to the rest of humanity.
posted by Foam Pants at 5:40 PM on November 1, 2011


She calls the spider balls arachnads. (I'll be here all week.)
posted by anothermug at 5:50 PM on November 1, 2011


*fap fap fap*

Surely you mean:
*thwip thwip thwip*
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:55 PM on November 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


Those are some shiny genitals, I tell you what.
posted by gingerest at 6:25 PM on November 1, 2011


spidey senses ... tingling...
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:32 PM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Rule 34 wins again.
posted by kmz at 6:34 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Huh. I was just reading a story of one woman's quest to photograph a squirrel playing the piano.


With its genitals?
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:39 PM on November 1, 2011


Life and nature are so amazing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:47 PM on November 1, 2011


David Cronenberg has found his latest source of inspiration.
posted by drezdn at 6:59 PM on November 1, 2011


Oh man, what a wonderful story. I wish more of us had Nina Sandlin's selfless devotion to esoteric scientific subjects. The world would be a better place, certainly.
posted by Kattullus at 7:23 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


@foam pants

well i can probably tell you what beer goes with what cheese burger assuming the beer is one of the kind from the gas station and the cheese burger is either a McD or a Wendys

so basically do whatever it doesnt really matter
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:25 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


NOPE
posted by tapesonthefloor at 7:45 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


So spiders are dickheads in the true sense of the word.
posted by JujuB at 8:29 PM on November 1, 2011


No, JujuB, they're just Edward Penispalps. Writ boxing glove large and with occasional traumatic insemination underscoring.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 8:53 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The pedipalps of spiders correspond to the claws of scorpions. So how do scorpions have sex? They waltz.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:17 PM on November 1, 2011


(Or possibly jitterbug.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:18 PM on November 1, 2011


Sopiders and scorpions are pretty creepy, but... arrgh! What the hell is that doing on your hand?
posted by Artw at 9:22 PM on November 1, 2011


The pedipalps of spiders correspond to the claws of scorpions. So how do scorpions have sex? They waltz.

There are no Baptists in a scorpion lair.
posted by Abiezer at 9:58 PM on November 1, 2011


NOPE

I expected a lot more of this, maybe some nopenopenope do not want..
But then thinking about it, the post title was probably kind enough to give every arachnophobe a quick heeby-jeeb before they bolted right past it.
Fascinating nonetheless.
posted by hypersloth at 11:21 PM on November 1, 2011


There are no Baptists in a scorpion lair.

Although I am led to believe that atheist foxes are common.
posted by Wolof at 11:42 PM on November 1, 2011


I have this image of her grant application with giant hand-lettered GET YOUR FREAK ON GIRL.
posted by dhartung at 12:28 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't really see anything in this article that indicated dementia, insanity, or anything other than a humble dedication to expanding knowledge. Why did the author feel the need to classify Nina Sandlin in this way? Especially when we aren't really told anything about her personal life besides her occupation--which indicates to me that she was possibly a former aspiring PhD who decided to get out of the rat race for whatever reason, and perhaps wants to stay involved in her field in any way possible. Or maybe just someone who slowly became fascinated in the subject. But I have to say a warning flag goes up when a female amateur scientist is flippantly described as demented or insane--even slightly.
posted by goodglovin77 at 1:14 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Related oglaf (hilarious and NSFW).
posted by idiopath at 2:25 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


The project is described as slightly demented, not the person.
posted by dhruva at 6:31 AM on November 2, 2011


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