Time to vacuum

The marine invertebrate team of Mandy and Stephen from the Australian Museum have been using different techniques to collect the widest variety of critters they can. One method that really tickles my fancy is the ‘air lift’, as it is officially known. But really, it’s just underwater vacuuming!

The air lift is essentially a long plastic pipe with a plastic bag over the end to catch the goodies, and a scuba tank to provide the suction.

Stephen (in action in the photo below) chooses which place he wants to target, which could be an algae-covered rock or a patch of sand and rubble, directs the nozzle and begins collecting.

Underwater vacuuming: collecting specimens with a long plastic pipe known as an “air lift” © Richie Robinson

Underwater vacuuming: collecting specimens with a long plastic pipe known as an “air lift” © Richie Robinson

The advantage of the air lift is that it sucks up many tiny animals that hide in amongst sand grains or algae fronds, and are otherwise almost impossible to collect. As Mandy told me, it’s easy enough to collect the big things that we can see, but most invertebrates are small and easily over-looked, and collecting those means being very resourceful.

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