And in Conclusion…the work must go on!

I’ve been back in America for precisely a week and I’m already missing the familiarity of both my apartment and my office in Edinburgh. Yet despite the thousands of miles of separation, I am still tied to my temporary home by my work, because my plane ticket did not put a stopper in it. The survey was sent out and now we are waiting for the answers to roll in so that I can analyze them, summarize them, and then finally, complete the paper I started in June. While the summer research is, obviously, limited to the summer months, the research I was lucky to be a part of will definitely continue in to autumn. It makes me feel like my work isn’t just a summer fling, so to speak, but something that is part of the real world; research that isn’t just a part of my small academic bubble, but something that affects other peoples’ lives. I can’t wait for the final answers to come in and to be able to analyze them, but even now, just a few weeks away from the summer research presentations, I really feel like I’ve been a part of something different, and I’ve learnt so many interesting things as well as multiple new skills. It’s been an amazing summer and I hope to not only do something similar next summer, but potentially something similar with the rest of my life.

Conclusion

The goal for this summer was to have sampling, DNA extraction, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), and fragment analysis sent off (to be later analyzed) completed on all 400 of the subsamples. Sampling and DNA extraction were finished. PCR unfortunately was not, delaying fragment analysis as well. Though the PCR protocol was developed during spring semester of 2017, new primers and a host of other problems made this step tricky. The first batch sent off for analysis came back blank, requiring adjusting of the protocol and the second had nebulous results. A delay in shipment meant that only 3 of the 7 primers were available for much of the summer. However, all extractions were completed successfully, and in the last remaining weeks of July, PCR was done on all 400 of the plants for 3 of the primers. All PCR products were shipped off for fragment analysis. Training began on using a fragment analysis software, so once results do come back, analysis will be smoother.

[Read more…]

The Final Post: Concluding my research, but not my promotion of ecotherapy

Alongside my research with Dr. Ibes at the Parks Research Lab, I have been interning for Wildrock Nature Playscape, a non-profit in Crozet, Virginia. Via this internship, I will be leading an ecotherapy retreat for college students. The goal of this retreat is to teach college students what ecotherapy is, and then help them plan an ecotherapy initiative on their college campus. For more information, please contact me at dcspitz@email.wm.edu, as William & Mary students are welcome on this retreat. Most major schools in Virginia will eventually feature an ecotherapy initiative on their campus. Thus, my research at the Parks Research Lab this summer has aided me in promoting ecotherapy to others.

[Read more…]

Reaching out to the community – surveys

With less than a week before I fly back to America, I can safely say that I’m very happy with the work I have done here at Scotland’s Rural College. Over the last couple of weeks I have left the construction of my paper on the back burner for now so that I can dedicate time to collecting the data I need for it, which is really exciting! With the guidance of my advisor here at the college, I crafted a survey to send out to agricultural advisors in order to gather their opinions of food production and the environment. Dr. Barnes made a similar survey which has previously been sent out to farmers, and so the questions were only slightly modified in order for us to get parallel information which will let us directly compare the opinions of farmers and their advisors. In this way we can get a sense of whether these two groups, which should be working in tandem, actually see things the same, or if there are major differences which could be hindering the uptake of sustainable agricultural practices. The survey was sent off this morning, so now all that’s to be done is wait until people start responding! While I only have a few more days to work with Dr. Barnes in person, I will still be a part of the team even while back in America so that I can help analyse the data and then finish the paper I started less than 2 months ago. It will be incredibly satisfying to see this project through to the end and I am excited to see what data we get and what it can tell us about the future of sustainable farming.

Labwork (PCR)

Following DNA extractions, it was time for amplification of DNA through Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). PCR amplifies the DNA by denaturing, copying, and synthesizing over and over again. Denaturing occurs via temperature, first during the DNA extraction process, and then again using the Thermocline machine (or PCR machine). The thermocline helps to regulate temperature allowing for PCR to go through its different steps, such as synthesis or denaturing. Synthesis occurs using a special polymerase Taq.

[Read more…]