Milkweed Connectedness Update 1:

My original plan was to use common Milkweed as a study system to understand the impact of clonality and group survival. By intentionally adding a pathogen, such as an herbicide, the spread of the negative effects can be witnessed in a clonally connected plant. The goal of this experiment is to see how far the pathogens travel in a patch, how long it takes for other plants to die, and if there is any preferential sharing. For instance, sometimes younger plants are favored in sharing. Herbicide will be used as a proxy for connectedness and physiological integration. 

This experiment was run in preliminary tests in the greenhouse. Herbicide was painted on to one plant, and connected underground to that plant was a second plant. Then we looked to see the influence of the herbicide on the second plants. Control plants that are not connected are used to demonstrate if water transfer of the herbicide is happening in the soil as opposed to through
Unfortunately however, glyphosate herbicides do not act as a proxy for connectedness. After many failed attempts and different possible protocols, I decided it would be better to try and answer my question with a different protocol and a different approach.

I will instead be analyzing relatedness (not just connectedness) through DNA sampling of transects of milkweed from a field.

My first step is extracting DNA. Extractions are done using liquid nitrogen, grinding up the plant, adding a buffer, and heating the sample to denature the DNA. This process takes a fairly long time. It is very important to sterilize everything in between too, because any bit of contamination could ruin the results. I am currently in the midst of extracting and have 5 of 14 transects completely extracted.

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