I’ve been a bit quiet on the InSite/Out front for the past few months. I found myself having a light summer field season, which consisted only of a pleasant day trip to collect the 1 year samples for TeaComposition H2O. While I enjoy fieldwork, as an early career researcher, I am noticing that my research is less field-based and is having more and more of a structured feel: field – lab – desk – repeat.
Gesche Blume-Werry talks about recognition and feedback as an early career researcher. Continue reading “Some thoughts on recognition along the way…”
It’s a cold and rainy morning, and I enter NIOO and a new world opens up to me: I am spending the next two months in the Netherlands Institute of Ecology in Wageningen.
As summer approaches in the UK, it’s time to come out of hibernation (sitting in front of the PC doing data analysis and writing up) and head back out into the field. Continue reading “InSite/Out with Richard Beason: Into the trees: Getting geared up for fieldwork”
Happy New Year to the InSite/Out readership!
As some of you may also be doing at the turn of a new year, I have been assessing the good, bad and ugly of 2017, while also looking ahead and planning (an incredibly successful) 2018. Launching the TeaComposition H2O initiative was probably largest and most rewarding project I had taken on last year. It has been one year since the launch, and since then more than 300 sites have been signed-up in ~35 countries. I have also been able to meet, either in-person or online, more than 100 research and citizen scientists who have been interested enough in the initiative to deploy more than 19,000 tea bags in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres (check it out!).
While musing, my thoughts took a bit of a detour and started wondering how I got into the decomposition business. Unless you work at The Body Farm, researching rotting things is typically not a ‘sexy’ science. My first decomposition project was not on seagrasses during my PhD in Sydney… actually – it took me a minute to realise this – my first decomposition project was for a science fair in elementary school.
A lot of science has filled my brain since I was 10, but a few details remain. Certainly, using a pre-made science project from a book in the library felt cheap. Instead, testing which conditions led to greater decomposition of wide-ruled loose-leaf paper somehow felt right. I think I was on the right track by adding water to a treatment, but perhaps not the case for the vinegar treatment. I only had one replicate for each treatment, but I did manage to get a couple tufts of fungus to grow, and that is about it. The judges must have thought the author of that tri-fold poster was an odd kid. Maybe. But considering I am still here in decomposition research and am undoubtedly working in good company, I think the decay project was an overall success.
The memory also reminds me (and I need to be reminded every so often while under the constant need to do and write) how science experiences in school can be impactful. We have made some progress in translating TeaComposition H2O to the classroom and for the general public, and there are several programs out there that have already done this successfully. Have you all had similar experiences in translating your science for schools? I’d love to hear about it.
As I sign off, best wishes for a balanced and productive 2018, and remember to share your science with a kid or two.
Until next time,
Until next time!
Finally, the end of the field-season has also reached me in the temperate peatlands. I’m not yet sure if it’s an advantage or disadvantage, that, after moving from the sub-Arctic to the temperate zone, my field-season is suddenly MUCH longer… Anyway, after a long period of preparation, we were finally ready to install tea- and litterbags in the field for our project about plant biomass production in drained and re-wetted peatlands. Things weren’t exactly made easy by the facts that a large part of those bags were root litterbags (and thus -obviously- needed to be installed at depth), that it was November and thus rainy and cold, and that parts of the bags needed to be installed in/below standing water (using waders and a clever combination of veterinarian gloves and standard rubber gloves, plus a good amount of duct tape).
Why am I working with roots in (very wet) peatlands, you ask? Maybe because although peatlands only cover 3% of the lands surface, they store twice as much carbon as the world’s forests, maybe because drained peatlands only make up 6% of agriculturally used land in Germany, but are responsible for 99% of the CO2 emissions from agricultural soils. Or maybe because re-wetting peatlands may help reducing carbon emissions, and because roots, which are a large part of plant biomass and production, are responsible for the peat in these temperate fens, and thus key players in the carbon cycling? Yes, all of the above, but also because it is also a lot of fun!
After two weeks of intense fieldwork, we had very sore muscles and very dirty clothes but also experienced this blissful happiness that you get from tiring days out in the field. Everything worked out, there were no major injuries (to plants or people), and it even seems like each of the roughly 3000 little bags was put into the right place – that is just an awesome feeling!
With that, I wish you all a very happy Christmas break, and a Happy New Year!
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” was a philosophical question posed by George Berkeley to explore various concepts relating to perception; is a sound only a sound if someone hears it, how much can we truly know about the unobserved world and so forth. I’m not looking to start a metaphysics debate (honestly!) but, for me, the answer is decidedly ‘yes, it does’. At least that’s the case if you happen to have an acoustic recorder somewhere in the vicinity of said tree when it falls. Continue reading “InSite/Out with Richard Beason: If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it… it does make a sound!”
One of the Insite/out bloggers had to unfortunately leave us. In Richard Beason we, however, have found a very worthy replacement. Richard will join the team which now consists of himself, Tracy, Gesche, and Rob. I hope you will continue reading their blogs, and give Richard a warm welcome. Below is a little introduction about Richard and his writing plans; looking forward to his posts.
It’s late July, the alpine meadows of the Swiss Alps are in full bloom, and the heat of the summer sun drives a deep sweet smell from the litter of the spruce forest floor as we start our walk up. My friend and colleague Mark leads the way as we move up the tour de Mont Blanc from la Fouly in the Valais, heading for our research site at ~2500m. There, the sun has given rise to abundant flowers, rich meadows, the buzzing of insect and bird life, but still works hard at melting the last of last of the snow. As we reach the site, we are greeted with the familiar, but always astounding, mixture of snowbeds, ridges, meadows, flush wetland, pools and screes of this dynamic and fantastic environment (see picture). Continue reading “InSite/Out with Rob Mills: Making the most of summer snow”