Week 5: gradual progress

Research has been moving slowly as I get up to speed in R programming.  I feel very slow sometimes when it takes me a half hour of googling and reading Stack Overflow to figure a simple problem.  I’m grateful to my labmates, many of whom can code, for their advice.  For example, I would never have figured out that my code wouldn’t run because R wasn’t reading reading my data as numbers.  I would never have guessed that it was even an option for R to read what I thought were numbers as non numeric characters.

Puzey lab’s hardworking high school interns have been steadily generating more data for me to work with.  They are using ImageJ to measure leaf characteristics from digitized herbarium specimens.  For each plant, they measure petiole length, midvein length, leaf width, basal angle, and apical angle.  Unfortunately, they have had to remeasure the basal and apical angles because the ImageJ angle measurement system wasn’t set up the way we had originally thought.  I’m very happy that my role is data analysis and not data collection because taking the leaf measurements is tedious and there are thousands of images to work through.

Hopefully I will discover something interesting as I analyze the data.  If our hypothesis is correct, I should see a small subset of the plants that have an intermediate phenotype between Asclepias syriaca and Asclepias exaltata.  If we find this intermediate phenotype, it could be the start of a series of experiments.  Because I’m in a plant genetics lab, we would probably do some genetic studies on hybrids, especially to determine their ploidy levels.  This would also be a good opportunity to do a greenhouse experiment to see if we can create the hybrids in the lab.  Sometimes, the direction of the cross is important.  Which species is maternal or paternal can have a large impact on the fitness of the offspring.  It would also be interesting to investigate whether the hybrids can reproduce with each other and their parent species.


  1. njgoing says:

    Hi Hannah,

    Just wanted to let you know that you are not the only one who feels slow in this process! There certainly have been many moments for me in which answers have bubbled up in their own time after much reading.

    I’m not sure that I fully understand your project just yet, but I am excited to see the end result. I am sure that the high schoolers whom you work with will also enjoy seeing the fruits of their labor.

    Best of luck!