Greetings From Blandy Experimental Farm! Blog Post 1

The first week and a half of research is off to a great start! We spent the first half week learning about lab protocols, milkweed plant care, and the spectroradiometer. We used this instrument to take absorbance readings for leaves from all 122 of our common milkweed plants in the greenhouse. We also collaborated with Professor Williamson’s lab on an experiment to see if cardenolides (a compound in milkweed) have antimicrobial properties. The initial results showed that they do not, but we are going to revise some elements of the experiment and try it again.

Last week, we headed up to Blandy Experimental Farm near Winchester, VA to take annual data on population dynamics for eight milkweed transects. We measured different characteristics about the plants, mapped their locations, and took readings of the leaves using the spectroradiometer. A crucial part of my experiment involves collecting longhorned milkweed beetles so that I can use their larvae. We spent a few hours one afternoon at the farm collecting the beetles and setting up their habitats. Over this weekend and next week some will oviposit, and then I will collect their eggs.

A sunset on the farm

A sunset on the farm

A longhorned milkweed beetle on a common milkweed leaf

A longhorned milkweed beetle on a common milkweed leaf

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