Time to get statty

Most of us in the lab have officially finished our field work with both milkweed and insects! For the remainder of the summer I will be going out into our nearby field site 1-2 times per week to collect some final data on insects. I have read that different types of milkweed herbivores will be emerging late in July (around this time). Our nearby site has relatively low insect density in general so I am unsure how much insect activity I will actually record, but it will be interesting to see! I am hoping to collect more samples for my insect teaching collection though I am doubtful that Yorktown has enough individuals for collection.

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Triumphs are so rewarding

While I am sadly still waiting on caterpillars to come to campus, I have been working on several exciting things in the lab. Since I am using HPLC to analyze cardenolide content in the milkweed leaf tissue after my experiment is finished I decided to actually work with the instrument to create a method that would process large batches of samples so that I don’t have to run them one at a time (I will have about 120 samples and each one will take a 45 minute run time on the HPLC so you can see why the latter is less than appealing). The HPLC that I am using hasn’t gotten much attention so there wasn’t a standard operating procedure for using it, and since the software is quite complex I decided that this week my goal would be to create a method file that would run practice samples (for 5 minutes each since it is just method development at this stage) and then initialize a shutdown procedure that will save energy by turning the instrument off when the batch is finished running. Thank goodness for the assistance and support of Jon Dalgleish we got this to work! After a week of long days and tiring nights we have figured out how to manipulate the HPLC to do exactly what we want, which means after I finish my experiment with the caterpillars in the greenhouse I will be left with only sample processing in the fall. It was such a great feeling to reach this achievement this week!

Winding Down

I cannot believe that I will soon be done working at the Natural History Museum soon. It seems like it was yesterday that I dragged myself out of bed at 5:30 AM to catch a bus to D.C. for my first day of work. Now, waking up that early hardly annoys me and it’s so much fun going into D.C. every week day. Not only am I conducting research, but I am also learning what it is like for many people who have to commute every day for their jobs. Like I said in an earlier post, I have definitely gained a greater appreciation for people who have to partake in this commute every work day for their entire careers. While I have gotten used to the commute, I don’t know if I could do this for a long-term job. This summer has truly been a learning experience in more ways than just research.

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The Progress of My Research

So far, my research has gone quite well. The first task at hand was to repeat the experiment outlined in a thesis written ten years ago by a former member of the lab. This would standardize the results from the experiments that my project is based upon. Also, this assures that the chemicals I’m using give the same or similar results as those used years ago.

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