Into the Woods, and the Start of New Adventures

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Finally, after weeks of waiting, Olivia and I finally have all of our materials to begin practicing staining and PCR procedures on our roots! We practiced the staining procedure for the first time on Friday using the roots of a few saplings from the college woods. Our plan was to heat a solution of Potassium Hydroxide and water until it was dissolved, and then add the pink cassettes full of tree roots. This process is intended to clear the roots of color, so that we can add a dye later that will only attach to the mycorrhizae. Unfortunately, we didn’t add enough heat to the mixture and the roots didn’t become translucent. This is what practice is for though! We are going to try again after we return from our trip to Maine.

Olivia had the idea of planting some of our extra seedlings in the college woods this week, as a supplementary component to our project. Assuming that these saplings survive, we are going to dig them back up in the fall and analyze them. It will be interesting to see if the genetic content and mycorrhizal diversity will differ between a greenhouse plant a field plant. This will help us to understand the viability of our results in a wild forest setting.¬†We planted five seedlings, randomly choosing between Chestnut, Red Oak, and Tulip Poplar, on a plot that was bordered by mature Oak or Poplar trees (to help encourage the colonization of mycorrhizae). We then covered the seedlings with a wire cage, which keeps hungry deer away. I’m going to drive out when I return from Maine and check the growth of these plants.

Speaking of Maine, I am incredibly excited to leave for this lab trip tomorrow! We are collecting data on a wild population of American Chestnuts in a remote reserve area. This will be the first time that I get to see a mature Chestnut tree! We will be living in a remote location and therefore have no access to wifi. My plan is to keep a journal while I am there, and post updates on the blog when I return! You’ll hear from me again in two weeks.