Getting back into field work can be rough, especially when you've taken time away from it to write papers/a dissertation. Writing, while a frustrating activity, can still be done in the rain, does not require Soda Lime, and should not involve calls to the LiCor help line (thanks, Jason and Rick!). Luckily, my three destination field season started in a familiar location with some great people, allowing me to ease back into measuring respiration.
Black Rock Forest is a research forest about 1.5 hours outside of Manhattan, near West Point and Bear Mountain, and is home to multiple research projects, with scientists of all levels studying birds, insects, small mammals, soil, water, and plants. My first day at Black Rock fell on the annual symposium, so I got a great introduction to all the research being performed here and got to see some familiar faces from Columbia.
Days started early (in the lab by 7:30 am) in order to warm up and zero the LiCor 6400s before heading into the forest, either with pole pruners or a shotgun (the latter, while more fun, takes much more time). After sampling branches from replicate trees, we returned as a team to the lab and got the machines running. I manned the Walz chambers in order to measure the short-term temperature response of respiration and fluorescence, as well as took some photosynthesis measurements. Rachel, an undergrad at Columbia, also measured short term temperature response of respiration, but focused on the 10-40C range only. Angie, a PhD student at Columbia who I have known for about 5 years, measured photosynthetic response to CO2 (A-ci curves) at three temperatures, to determine the species' (Southern, Central, or Northern ranged) photosynthetic variation. Rebecca, an undergrad at Kenyon College, joined the mainly NY-based team to measure stomatal density and fluorescence. Crystal, a Barnard College student, took unique, never-before-made measurements on respiratory quotient. Our all-female ecophysiological dream-team worked efficiently, fueled by Tim Tams, Weir's ice cream, and IHOP. We managed to get through 10 dominant tree species, and data collected during those weeks will be the basis for Angie's dissertation chapters, and multiple senior theses at Barnard and Columbia.
I arrived in Canberra a bit over a week ago, and have finally adjusted to both the time change, and the chilly June mornings. Australian National University is located in the Acton suburb, about a 25 minute walk from where I am staying in the O'Connor suburb. The labs and facilities in the Research School of Biology are impressive: multiple glasshouse facilities, an airplane hanger full of growth chambers (or it seemed that way), and every piece of equipment one could use to measure a plant. The Atkin Lab at ANU shares a large lab and office space with the lab of Marilyn Ball, and I've enjoyed getting to know many people over meetings, lunches and the occasional Torres Strait Islander dance performance at Union Court.
Prior to shipping off to Black Rock Forest in Cornwall, NY, I need to train myself on familiar (Li-Cor 6400) and unfamiliar (WALZ peltier controlled chambers) equipment. The past few days in the lab consisted of a lot of COM-port locating and assigning, button pushing, and leaf-clipping. I've received invaluable help from Jack Egerton, who knows the ins-and-outs of all the machines (his hands below adjusting a thermocouple).
The next week or so will consist of plenty planning - both in terms of straight logistics (packing, shipping, receiving, airfare booking, ordering supplies), as well as research design (what and where to measure leaves, how to assemble data into a larger framework). After months, nay a year, of writing up data I collected at Toolik Lake, and creating figures, tables, and interpreting results, I am reminded of how detailed and sometimes tedious collecting raw data from the field can be. COM port fidgeting and "matching" the 6400 is quickly forgotten (for the better) during data analysis, interpretation, and later write up, but all those tedious elements feed into the larger experiment...and I can't delegate it all to a grad student just yet.