End of Season Wrap-Up

!S1080015While this post is meant to be a wrap-up of everything that I’ve been doing this summer, I must add the caveat that my research will finish up for the summer next week. Today marks day 4 of the caterpillar milkweed treatment, the 72 hour and final sampling session was done at 1 pm and the caterpillar and control treatments are both finished. Next week I will be running the simulated herbivory treatment, but for now I am able to celebrate because the experiment with living creatures is over! So this summer I developed a method and protocol for the High Pressure Liquid Chromatography portion of my experiment that I will be conducting this fall. The method development included figuring out how to run batch samples in the HPLC as well as how care for the equipment. This summer I also did field work for several weeks during which I was measuring natural populations of milkweed, and I was able to take samples that I may be able to compare to my research plants in the greenhouse. The greenhouse plants I was able to keep alive and healthy for the entirety of the summer, even though milkweed strongly prefers being out in a field than pampered in a greenhouse. To sample the plants we took latex samples, trichome samples, and tissue samples. The latex samples I have weighed already, and the trichome samples will be counted in the fall semester. To prepare the tissue samples I flash froze them in liquid nitrogen and then freeze dried them in a lyophilizer. I’ve read what feels like countless papers on milkweed research, Monarchs, and plant defensive responses and have begun to write the introduction and methods sections for my senior thesis, which will come in handy because the less writing I need to do in the fall and spring the better! The caterpillars I am going to continue to raise for the next couple of weeks until they are butterflies, and some of them I will test using the HPLC method I am using for the milkweed. This is purely exploratory, but from watching the caterpillars grow as they ate the milkweed it was interesting to see that some caterpillars grew more than others in the 72 hour treatment period, and it seemed to be correlated to the size of the plants they were eating. This may also relate to the low and high density treatments of the milkweed. All in all, this summer has benefitted me in several ways: I got to expand my skill set for conducting field research, I got to conduct experimental research in a greenhouse which was entirely new for me, and I have had the chance to work with an HPLC that I will continue to use through the semester.

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