The field season is off and running, with laboratory experiments churning away as the long summer days pass by. In many summers past I spent all day every day out in "the field" although never actually working in fields, I have been in forests, desserts and savannas... but I digress. This summer is distinctly different in that my field days are much more compact in comparison to the intensive lab work I have scheduled. It is quite a change of pace, and it still seems odd not to lace up my boots each morning and take a thermos of tea out into the woods...
My first field site was located in Jutland, so it was a pretty long field day to go out and collect soils and bring them back. After the 15N incubations were completed (because they are time sensitive you really want to start the experiment as soon as possible), I extracted my first set of soil samples for soil microbial DNA! Testing out new protocols and methods is both exciting and mildly terrifying in that you look forward to seeing results and hoping that the new methods actually worked out. In this case I had success in extracting DNA, which means I have the raw materials for more downstream applications (qPCR anyone?).
But in a lovely turn of events after the summer solstice (possibly the weather guardians are orchestrating for my continued diligence with lab work?), we are now back to grey skies and rain. So spending my days in the lab doesn't feel like I am missing out on peak summer fun, and instead I get to hang out with my new lab friend Blue-Green Algae. I know these giant microbes have been around for a while, but I am still really entertained by them. Instead of squishy stess balls, try a stuffed microbe!
While some early career scientists are told not to touch analytical machines (so as not to break them I think?), for me the experience actually solidified how samples become data, and ultimately left me feeling like flow injection analysis is less of a black box that spits out lovely nitrogen concentrations for me. You also really appreciate the single sentence in papers that states how nitrogen concentrations were determined, and how diluting samples can actually take an entire morning despite being an innocent two word phrase on a to-do list. Speaking of that to-do list... I must head off to work on my poster for the upcoming Ecological Society of America meeting in Baltimore!