Milking the unwitting: excessive cost of diatom analyses

23 October 2013

Diatoma vulgaris (Photo: Bill Harding)

Diatoma vulgaris (Photo: Bill Harding)

As co-developer of the South African Diatom Protocol, the so-called DAP, it has come to my attention that some service providers are charging exorbitantly high prices for processing a single sample – something that should cost somewhere around R1000.00 per sample ex VAT.  While ‘let the buyer beware’ always prevails, don’t get conned, do your homework.  While there are very few specialists who can perform these analyses, this is no reason to overcharge.

Another issue is the proficiency of the service providers – diatom identification to species is a complex business.  If you are at all unsure, insist that the lab you choose sends a set number of samples (duplicates) to a known and proficient analyst for quality control purposes – or – make duplicates of your samples and send some of them to a second lab yourself.  Finally, insist that duplicates of your processed samples be lodged with the South African National Diatom Collection – currently housed at North West University’s Potchefstroom campus.  By so doing, anyone can check on the accuracy of what was found at any point in the future.

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