Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Yesterday's work day

I decided it was high time to break down the experiment - it had gone long enough, and some of the plants were getting a bit crispy-tipped from getting too close to the light banks. So after lunch yesterday I came back and set to work.

This involved measuring some 40 or so successful plants (I had a lot of not-germination), dumping out the Cone-tainers of soil, mixing the soil from one species within a treatment, and then taking 20 grams of that for the pH determination (one of the questions I had: could the cedar be acidifying the soil?).

Conetainers aren't fun to work with. For one thing, they're not very well-finished and they have sharp edges. I wrecked up the Rainbow Dash manicure (so took it off last night before showering) and also nicked up my hands a little. (I THINK, if I remember rightly, my last tetanus booster was in 2013, so I'm probably still good there. But I do worry, and some doctors say that if you work with soil a lot, you need a booster every 5 years).

It took a while. For part of it, my research student came by and helped me, and that was good - for one thing, I didn't have to handle the cedar litter that would make me come out in hives, and for another, she was able to write down the measurements as I took them, which made it go a bit faster. (Still, I was working from just after 2 until 5:30, with a couple breaks).

I had four treatments and five species each, so 20 little beakers of soil for the pH testing. And then I thought about getting the deionized water. The taps that provide that are in the OTHER side of the building (where the lab classrooms are) so I had to drag over there and get water.

And here's evidence of how tired I was: when I tried to figure out how much water I needed, I thought, "20 samples with 20 mL each - that's 2000 mL" - so I grabbed two clean 1000 mL flasks and proceeded to fill them, and then thought, "Wait, but 2 x 2 is 4, so wouldn't it be 4000 mL?" And then proceeded to grumble about how circumstances always seem to make my life difficult, and what a pain it is doing research "on your own time" and all of that.

So I grabbed the wash bottles that I knew were full of deionized water (I filled them yesterday) and hoped there was enough left in my research lab carboy to manage, and went back to the lab.

And started measuring out the 20 mL aliquots, and had a brief moment of thinking that somehow the loaves-and-fishes miracle was happening, but just with deionized water.

Then I realized: wait, 20 samples at 20 mL each is 400 mL of water, NOT 4000.

I felt kind of stupid then but at least no harm was done. (But yeah: evidence I'm too tired).

I had to wait a half-hour. Didn't feel like cleaning up, I will do that this morning.

At least the little pH meter (they are little portable electronic ones, sold mostly for field-testing water samples) worked really well - it was STILL properly calibrated from a month ago (I checked). No surprises in the results (no big drop in pH with the exposure to cedar extract), but at least I have the data now.

So today I have to clean the lab up but at least there's no more babysitting little plants, and worrying about having enough extract, or anything.

And I feel like I earned myself a day off on Friday. (We get Good Friday off of class....)

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