A few days ago a book came for me that I'd ordered through the university's interlibrary loans system. Field Preparation of Marine Specimens, by GJ Meuller, published in 1972, is a very useful little book that was published by the university of Alaska press and distributed to a very limited number of libraries - my copy came from the University of Idaho; I found other copies at the Smithsonian Institution and the various branch campuses of the university of Alaska. Nobody in Canada carries it that I could find.
This is an interesting book for at least two reasons. First, from a practical standpoint, it contains a high density of useful advice for collecting, identifying and preserving marine invertebrates - it's essentially a handbook for practical marine biology. Second, it's a fascinating look at laboratory and field practices in biology from 35 years ago.
Most of the recommended fixative and preservative solutions, generally named after their inventors (Gray's mixture, Bouin's fluid, etc.), were invented some time between 1930 and 1960, with lots of work apparently happening in the 1950s. Did the people of that era, extending up to 1972, have no concept of laboratory chemical safety? All of the solutions, for which recipes are helpfully provided, contain at least one horribly toxic or reactive ingredient. Many contain Mercuric chloride, one of the nastiest chemicals one can buy! That shit passes right through gloves made of latex or lots of other materials, absorbs through skin, and then fucking kills you! Boo-ya! You're dead! Madness! There's a note that Mercuric chloride is "extremely poisonous" in one description for one solution (Gilson's fluid), but that's it. The explosive properties of Picric acid are not discussed at all, and no mention is made of the toxic effects of chronic exposure to formalin. Several of the mixtures contain controlled substances such as Chloral hydrate or the insecticide Sevin, without any mention of how to obtain such materials - were these chemicals only controlled very recently?
All of the information not directly related to poisoning oneself in this book is great, though. I'm happy I found it, but I'm still stuck trying to find a method for working with invertebrates that involves neither my own death nor destruction of cell nuclei. Oh well. A recipe for a graded Ethanol series is included, which may be useful as I've seen some mention of a gradual increase in Ethanol not dehydrating tissues. Experiments ahoy!