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Going through the Alphabet

Sunday, July 9, 2017
Going through the Alphabet
Measuring Mongolian Oak leaves with rulers to determine leaf area.

Hello again!


I’ve been working on this blog post since the beginning of last week. I’ve found that, just like research, things never go as planned.


If you ask any of my friends, they’ll tell you that I’m a planner. I like to have a clear idea of what I’m doing and how I’m going to do it, ahead of time. I’ve found that planning is a necessary component of research, particularly if your project has a lot of moving parts or if you need to use another person’s instruments.


But research is also fluid, and constantly evolving. These past two weeks have taught me that researchers must be, above all, adaptable and persistent. My project has undergone drastic changes since the beginning of my time here at the Arboretum. I’ve gone from studying the accuracy of allometric estimates to examining the effects of bacterial leaf scorch, from building a 3D model using drone photogrammetry to testing trees using DNA extraction and PCR.



A white drone, the silver box it came in, and the device used to control the drone sitting on the grass.
The drone, its case, and the Samsung device we used to control the drone.
Alyssa Gao

This past week, I was finally able to nail down my project and collect samples to analyze. My project will investigate the effects of bacterial leaf scorch on leaves of Mongolian Oak specimens in the Morton Arboretum collection. Next week, I will extract DNA from twig samples to test trees for the bacterial leaf scorch, and prepare the leaf samples for foliar nutrient and moisture content analysis.

Another fellow taking a picture of five leaves laid out on a piece of paper, with a balance and samples folded in newspaper on the lab bench beside her.
Taskeen, another fellow working under Dr. Chuck Cannon, helping me weigh and measure my leaf samples.
Alyssa Gao

The process of fleshing out a research project can be incredibly arduous and frustrating. But that’s life, I suppose. Roadblocks are inevitable, and if you want to overcome them, you must persist and adapt.


Plus, even If plan A doesn’t work, there are always 25 more letters in the alphabet.

About the Author
Hi everyone! My name is Alyssa Gao, and I am one of the Undergraduate Research Fellows at the Morton Arboretum’s Center for Tree Science working with Dr. Chuck Cannon. I am a rising sophomore at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. This summer, I am researching the effects of bacterial leaf scorch on the leaves of Mongolian Oak specimens in the Morton Arboretum collections. Through this project, I hope to provide insight into the physiological responses of trees to disease. I am excited to contribute to the on-going research at The Morton Arboretum!