Soil samples are measured into glass beakers and set out for enzyme analysis
The remaining weeks of my internship will be spent in the lab. I will be running different tests and analyses on my soil and root collections. Below are a few pictures of some of the cool things I get to use in the lab! The analyses I will be performing are soil nitrogen mineralization rates, soil microbial biomass, soil carbon concentration, enzymes, root biomass, root structure and size, and root exudation. All of these tests require the use of many different lab technologies and tools.
Cheers to lab work!
This micropipette was used to quickly dispense solution into soil samples on small trays for enzyme analyses
Machine called Elementar that analyzes samples for different element concentrations
A machine with a rapidly rotating container that applies centrifugal force to its contents, typically to separate fluids of different densities (e.g., soil and acid) or liquids from solids.
Undergraduate researcher Sam Panock (pictured right) is being filmed by camera man Matthew Taylor (pictured left) from the Development Department while completing extractions for soil microbial biomass analyses.
For the first five weeks of this program, I have been working in the field to collect soil samples, root samples, and root exudates for my 48 individual trees (8 species total). On my last few days of collection, I was being filmed by staff from The Morton Arboretum Development Department. The goal was to capture close ups of some behind the scenes science. The camera man followed me through swarms of mosquitos into the deep forest to film the soil and root collection processes. The lab work and extraction preparations were also filmed the next day. It was a super cool experience to be able to show off the hard work I have been doing for the past weeks, and it is a great feeling to know others are exited and eager to learn about my research!
Undergraduate researcher Sam Panock using a needle to inject nutrient solution into a syringe holding roots to measure root exudation.
For the first few weeks on my research, I have been out in the field collecting soil and root samples from my selected tree species. The soil samples are taken using soil cores. The soil core tool is pounded into the ground to retrieve the top 10cm of rhizosphere and bulk soil- talk about using those arm muscles! I have also been taking root samples and collecting root exudation data. To measure root exudation, roots must remain attached to the tree root system but separated from the others and cleaned. The clean root is placed into a syringe filled with plastic crafting beads and nutrient solution. The beads and solution create a "fake" environment so the root continues to act naturally. The syringe is left in the field for 24 hours and then collected and brought back to the lab. In the lab, the roots are measured for size and biomass, and the nutrient solution is analyzed for carbon concentration.
Check out the photos- A picture is worth a thousand words!
Cheers to roots!
Root placed in syringe filled with craft beads and nutrient solution to sit in the field for 24 hours
Preparing roots for exudation measurements by rinsing them off with DI water
The pine plot is located on the east side of the arboretum. Visitors can take a hiking trail to see the pines and spruces perfectly lined up and growing to the sky.
The best part of being an ecologist is spending most of the work day outdoors. Instead of sitting in a grey cupicle staring out of a window, I get to adventure off into the sunny green forests. Several philosphers such as John Muir and Henry David Thoreua believed that nature is good for the human soul. I believe nature is a a great place to think, clear your head, and relieve some stress. The fresh air helps clear the mind and the sounds of birds singing and the wind whistling through the trees is calming. Whether it be for a picnic, bike ride, jog, or simple walk, I suggest to everyone to spend as much time outside in nature as possible! It will change your life for the better.
For the second week of collections, I was out in the Red Oak forestry plot taking soil samples when it began to downpour.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Samantha, and I am an undergraduate research fellow for this summer at The Morton Arboretum here in Lisle, IL. I am working under Dr. Meghan Midgley in the soil ecology lab. This summer we are investigating the relationships between root processes and soil characteristics in evergreen and deciduous trees. I spend my mornings out in the field setting up or collecting samples and the afternoon in the lab running various analyses on the root and soil collections. I get to drive the super cool research golf cart around the property to get from tree to tree. Everyone waves and smiles as I go by, and it really makes me feel like The Morton Arboretum is the best place to be!