7/29/22: the michael jordan of dunking trees

We are officially in the deep end of both our waterlogging project and this summer’s REU program. After following the same procedure as last week with the magnolias, the maples were harvested and placed in the pool. Meanwhile, Isabella and I, along with the rest of the REU students, prepped for the presentations we will be giving next Wednesday at the arboretum. Have you ever watched a scientist present their research in a Youtube video, at a conference, or some other type of event? It can seem like a stand-alone project, but I assure you that behind the scenes it is an extremely collaborative endeavor! Continue reading to find out more about what we did this week in the Root Lab to strengthen our wings for the upcoming flight (I assure you, this metaphor will pay off by the end of this post).

Harvested root samples and began waterlogging the maples

Last week I provided a step-by-step procedure of how we harvested roots from the magnolia trees before dunking them in the pools. I will spare you the details here and just assume that you are a loyal follower of the blog who enthusiastically reads every update. Okay okay, I get it, it was your cousin’s birthday last weekend and you didn’t have time to check in. Here’s a short summary: we collected fine roots from one window of the rhizo-pots for each maple, cleaned and weighed them, and stored them in a very cold freezer to preserve them for stress and carbohydrate measurements that we will be doing in the coming months.

Below are some shots of Sarah and me in action. Collecting the maple roots was a little more difficult because maples have much smaller roots than the chunky magnolias. Luckily, we were able to hunker down and power through the harvesting session with the help of a riveting conversation ranging from topics of reality TV madness to iCarly geniusness.

Have you ever seen a happier pair of scientists? After collecting the roots, I placed them in those white trays, Sarah gave them a quick clean and weighed them before placing them in falcon tubes. A falcon tube is a plastic test tube with a screw cap.

Prepared presentations

What do you picture when you think of scientists and research? Charles Darwin sailing around the world, jotting down observations in his journal of a bird with a peculiar beak? Stewing in his private office for decades trying to perfectly describe and explain his theory of natural selection? Or maybe Watson and Crick feverishly racing Rosalind Franklin to share the structure of DNA with the world. The narratives above are what was commonly portrayed to me by text books and documentaries when recounting the great scientific discoveries of the past. My experience in research (although extremely limited as of now) has not been a lone venture. I say this to assure anyone who may be reading this that if you are passionate about pursuing a career in science or research, but are not yet confident in your ability to go it alone, you don’t have to!

In preparing for the REU symposium this week, I have had the help of everyone in the Root Lab in addition to other peers and volunteers at the arboretum. Isabella, Jessica, and I ran through practice presentations and received constructive feed-back from Luke, Marvin, and each other. Our volunteer Veta came in clutch with some helpful R tips when I was encountering issues plotting our photosynthesis data. This is all to say that science is a group effort. Even Rachel Carson probably had a helpful friend around to teach her how to code on the typewriter. While we’re on the topic of science, history, and Rachel Carson, check out this article to read a great summary of the life and legacy of one of my favorite figures in science.

Carson seen here, maybe she’s struggling with editing her x-axis labels in ggplot? Photo cred goes to “themarginalian” website where you can find the article I linked.

Tidied up Li-cor data in R

I wanted to share some preliminary results with all of you to give you an update of where we’re at in the waterlogging timeline and if the trees are responding as expected. Spoiler alert: they are! Unfortunately for the trees and fortunately for us, the magnolias showed a dramatic decline in photosynthetic efficiency after being submerged in the pools. We have used the Li-cor 6800 to take photosynthesis measurements at three and seven days after waterlogging was initiated. We will take another photosynthesis measurement next Tuesday before pulling the trees out of the water. Stay tuned for next week’s update to see how the magnolias are doing after 14 days and to check in with the maples as well.

A refresher on the word assimilation: this is a measure of photosynthesis looking at how much carbon a leaf is absorbing. You can see that the during the last two sessions (while the trees were dunked) the waterlogged trees were unable to absorb much carbon.

Get all your butterfly tea here, at Metamorphosis Monthly

Remember this gooey lookin’ fella? Incase you don’t, it is a red-spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis)... It’s hard to believe the incredible metamorphosis that occurs just over the course of a few weeks! Once again, props are due to the talented Marvin Lo for the great pictures.

What about our friend here? Remember? This is Butter, our giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes). Butter went from a caterpillar that mimics bird droppings, to a vibrant yellow beauty.