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ECN-L  March 2020, Week 2

ECN-L March 2020, Week 2

Subject:

Re: Entomological Collections - preparation and guidance, remote work etc.

From:

Wei Song Hwang <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Wei Song Hwang <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 13 Mar 2020 13:56:19 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (34 lines)

Greetings from Singapore,
 
Since we were one of the earliest countries outside of China to get hit by Covid-19, I thought it might be useful to share some insights of how it has affected our museum operations. Our first confirmed case in the country occurred on 23rd January, and the first case in the university occurred on 13th Feb, followed closely by a second case on 16th Feb. By 21st Feb (3 weeks ago), the museum here decided to implement a split team working arrangement rather than a complete shutdown to ensure some operational continuity. The projection back then was that the situation is likely to persist for more than a month and it was not realistic for everyone in the museum to work from home almost indefinitely, given the nature of our jobs. So all museum personnel: full-time staff, part-timers, interns, volunteers, were distributed into two separate teams such that one team works at the museum while the other works from home and we rotate on a weekly basis. If anyone within the team gets infected, the entire team will get quarantined at home, museum gets disinfected, and the other team will be called back to continue operations. 
 
Three weeks into this split team arrangement, here are some workarounds we managed to devise, and things that don’t quite work:
	1.	All incoming research visits had to be deferred due to travel restrictions on either side so this is an unfortunate loss.
	2.	All overseas expeditions are put on hold for similar reasons.
	3.	We managed to scavenge enough manpower to conduct regular local field work/insect surveys.
	4.	Our outreach and education team cancelled all k-12 equivalent school group visits and are effectively out of work, but took this opportunity to attach themselves with ongoing museum research and collections projects to lend a hand and also gain some experience useful for future sharing.
	5.	Live cultures maintained although with a leaner crew. Other labs in the university have selected personnel solely dedicated to culture upkeep and completely isolated from other lab members.
	6.	Digitization efforts as mentioned by others are less affected, with georeferencing, data cleaning, etc more amenable to off-site continuity. Google drives, Dropboxes, Skype, and WhatsApp become daily essentials. Laptops become prized commodities as not all personnel have computers at home. The one bottleneck here is specimen imaging using non-portable set-ups that is only available in the museum. 
	7.	Specimen-based work is still largely limited to the team stationed in the museum for the week. The challenge here is coordinating tag-team duties and making sure the next team picks up exactly where you left off. An example is quarantine procedures for incoming insect specimens that needs to be switched out.
	8.	Training of personnel becomes either tedious or near impossible, and mostly postponed till later dates.
 
With the Covid-19 now a pandemic, we are bracing for a resurgence of cases and the museum higher management is reviewing the current system, with the likelihood of increased stringency. We are trying to find creative ways to keep the work going as much as possible so any suggestions are greatly appreciated. 
 
Stay safe and healthy!
 
Cheers,
Wei Song

-- 
Wei Song Hwang
Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum/
University Scholars Programme/
Department of Biological Sciences
 
National University of Singapore
2 Conservatory Drive, Singapore 117377
 
Phone: (+65) 6601-7354
Fax: (+65) 6774-8101
Email: [log in to unmask]

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