fbpx Rooting for Results | The Morton Arboretum

Rooting for Results

Rooting for Results
My pile of notes and data I used to help me as I learned how to use the new software to get data that I could analyze.

This summer I have set out on a journey below ground to analyze the root growth of two very important tree species, Norway Maple and River Birch.  My journey began mid-May when I started my position here at the Morton Arboretum as an Undergraduate Research Fellow in the Root Lab. The purpose of my project is to determine whether Norway Maple and River Birch have different root regeneration properties after a mimic transplantation. I use a special camera called a minirhizotron to take pictures of the roots as they grow throughout the season. ‘Watching roots grow’ sounds as easy as ‘watching the grass grow’, right? Well, not so much. The minirhizotron and accompanying software is a fairly new addition to the Root Lab here at the Morton Arboretum. So, it was up to me to become familiar with the ins and outs, tricks and tips of using these tools. After days of tutorials and research, I finally felt comfortable enough to start applying the tools to my project, only to run into some problems. The data I am dealing with is WAY more complicated than I was expecting. I have to analyze hundreds of roots, their length, status, and how they change overtime. With this much data to analyze, I couldn’t decide where to start, thus imposing a hiatus on any results I was hoping to receive. Once again, I returned to the tutorials, drawing board, and manuals and with the help of some volunteers and my mentor, Dr. Gary Watson, I was able to solve these problems and finally export and decipher the data. I still have a lot more data to collect, but at least now I know there is a way to obtain results to my experiment.

About the Author
My name is Lydia Schlaefke and I am an Undergraduate Research Fellow working under Dr. Gary Watson in the Root Lab this summer. I will be entering my last year of undergraduate at Michigan State University this fall (2018). I am studying Environmental Microbiology with a minor in Environmental Sustainability Studies. After graduation I plan on using my degree to encourage and explore sustainability in the research and science world.