Caterpillars are on their way!

Hey everyone! So I know that most people are finishing up their research projects this week, but I am going to be running the biggest part of my experiment this week! The HPLC method has been developed, the plants are doing fine, the cages are all up in the greenhouse, and we are finally getting the caterpillars to run the experiment! Unfortunately, we won’t be getting them from the original distributor that we ordered from due to time constraints, but I was able to find a wonderful butterfly farm in PA and they were able to ship them yesterday! So just a review of what we are using the caterpillars for: we have 18 cages with tubs of high and low density plants, 9 of each type. There are 3 treatments: caterpillar, manual damage using a hole-punch, and no damage. The caterpillars will be on the plants for a total of 72 hours, and that will be the end of our recording time. During those 72 hours we will take samples of all 3 treatments and then prepare them by flash-freezing and freeze-drying so that I may run HPLC on them during the fall semester. As an added bonus, after the experiment has run we will be rearing the caterpillars in two butterfly cages in the greenhouse! We hope they will add another splash of color to our already personable greenhouse! I will be posting some pictures during the experiment this week of the caterpillars when they are finally on our humble milkweed plants:)

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Triumphs are so rewarding

While I am sadly still waiting on caterpillars to come to campus, I have been working on several exciting things in the lab. Since I am using HPLC to analyze cardenolide content in the milkweed leaf tissue after my experiment is finished I decided to actually work with the instrument to create a method that would process large batches of samples so that I don’t have to run them one at a time (I will have about 120 samples and each one will take a 45 minute run time on the HPLC so you can see why the latter is less than appealing). The HPLC that I am using hasn’t gotten much attention so there wasn’t a standard operating procedure for using it, and since the software is quite complex I decided that this week my goal would be to create a method file that would run practice samples (for 5 minutes each since it is just method development at this stage) and then initialize a shutdown procedure that will save energy by turning the instrument off when the batch is finished running. Thank goodness for the assistance and support of Jon Dalgleish we got this to work! After a week of long days and tiring nights we have figured out how to manipulate the HPLC to do exactly what we want, which means after I finish my experiment with the caterpillars in the greenhouse I will be left with only sample processing in the fall. It was such a great feeling to reach this achievement this week!

Milkweed Summer Research Week 1

Milkweed Set-Up

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