Climb a mountain? Don’t mind if I do!

Monday, July 16th

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Cowgirl Creamery

Today, I was reassured that I found the best topic to research. I borrowed a friend’s car and drove up to Marin County, which is roughly an hour away from where I’ve been staying in Berkeley. I went to tour Cowgirl Creamery, an organic artisanal cheese factory which is known for their potent Red Hawk cheese. Not only did I witness the beauty of cheese making, which is 85% cleaning and 15% cheese making, but I also had the opportunity to try nine varieties of cheese. Since I am always terrified of the cottage cheese my mother eats every morning, this was adventurous for me. I learnt that cheese is thought to predate wine; some believe that a brave soul once put milk into a bladder and traveled across the desert to find this process resulted in cheese! This is possible because the stomach enzymes in the bladders are necessary to separate the curds from the whey and heat allows the bacteria to grow. Today, cheese makers add the enzyme (which is easily purchased from any specialized cheese store) directly to the milk without putting the milk back into a bladder. Our tour guide used a high concentration of the enzyme that allowed my group to witness cheese making in a matter of seconds! Throughout this process he taught us how to make cheese at home from the “mother” cheese that one would typically buy in a grocery store. Although it may not produce award-winning results, if you add a dollop of your desired cheese (try crème fraîche with live active cultures) to cream and let the mixture sit in an oven set at the lowest temperature, the heat will allow the bacteria to spread to the rest of the milk, resulting in another batch of your favorite fresh cheese! Our tour guide also introduced us to MALT, an agricultural land trust founded by the owner of Cowgirl Creamery, Ellen Straus, in the 70’s to combat the development of agricultural land. In a unique and unprecedented manner, Ellen Straus and others bought the easement rights to many of the farms in Marin County, giving the farmers an influx of resources that they used to improve their land. The Marin Agricultural Land Trust helped many farmers get the economic support that they needed to make the change from conventional to organic growing methods. Seems to me like this could be a sustainable business model going forwards, perhaps more individuals, or companies could use this strategy to maintain farmland and provide economic support to struggling farmers. With all this useful information, I am finding that the tape recorder is proving to be a messy means to capture material. On tours, I have to squeeze my way to the front and make sure that the tour guide’s voice is in range of the recorder and with little background noise. If someone can help me think of a less pesky way to capture all my information I would be eternally grateful. Despite that nuisance, I was thrilled that I traveled out here. I took Highway One down the coast, jumped into the Pacific, and drove over the Golden Gate. All this is making me want to move out to California!

You’ve got to go dig those holes

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No Problem

“No problem,” replied my host father Don Pedro.  As I continued to get to know him and his family through fluent Spangilsh, I realized that this phrase is a staple of his vocabulary.  It also accurately describes my research experience over these past few days in San Jose, Costa Rica.   My research seeks to examine attitudes towards the environment in immigrant and non-immigrant populations in San Jose.  I will collect quantitative data through questionnaires of both populations and hopefully gather qualitative data through interviews with immigrants living in Costa Rica.  I am collaborating with Dr. Roberto Rodriguez of the Universidad de Iberoamerica (UNIBE, http://www.unibecostarica.com/) and Gail Nystrom of the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation (CRHF, http://www.crhf.org/).

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Fun with cloning!

Hello All!!

 

So, I arrived in Williamsburg on June 3rd and promptly started lab research on June 4th. Time really does fly when you are fully engrossed in a research project.  Just as a re-cap on my project. I am performing a Yeast Two-Hybrid Assay, to find proteins that interact with the protein, UBE3A. I could go into every nitty gritty detail of each step of the process, but I feel as if I would completely bore you. So, I am going to explain it in a simplified way. A scientific experiment in a wet lab takes many many many steps. Each step takes much longer than what would be expected, especially when working with yeast.

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