After a sleepless night, filled with anxious thought about failing experiments, this morning my team and I met up to ‘start aphid treatments’. They had not yet heard the latest news. They were quite surprised when I said that instead of adding aphids today, we would be removing aphids. Naturally colonizing aphids were the main reason we had to activate our emergency protocol yesterday evening, as I wrote about in yesterday’s blog. After a visit to the greenhouse yesterday, I recognized that aphids had exploded over the past couple of days. The plants have reached a size on which soon we will not be able to keep the aphids in control any longer. Adding a 2-3 week controlled aphid addition in sleeve cages would jeopardize the quality of our plants, and some of the specific analyses that we had planned.
So instead, we removed aphids today on the plants that were supposed to be controls, and left aphids to colonize naturally on the plants that were assigned to aphid treatments. Obviously this is not as controlled, but we have now changed the treatment to a controlled herbivore removal treatment instead of a herbivore addition treatment. This saved the integrity of our design, and still allows us to investigate the effects of our other treatments on various plant parameters.
I was also very relieved to find out this morning that one of the other things that I had understood was done to the experiment without our knowledge, was based on a miscommunication. In fact our plants had been treated very nicely. A big sigh of relief there!
The emergency plan that we have now come up with means that we will be doing a harvest two weeks earlier than planned – by mid next week. Luckily, many people from the involved groups have recognized the importance of the earlier harvest, and we hence have managed to assemble quite a large team of people, of course including me and my team, all of whom were quick to respond and eager to help.
In a matter of a couple of hours we cleaned our designated plants this morning. In addition, many of the team offered spontaneous support for arranging two field experiments that were still on the schedule for the coming weeks – and that I had decided to so alone on the weekend. Even our department secretary offered her support in planting the field experiment on the weekend, which almost brought me to tears. On days like this I realize more than ever the power of being surrounded by a great team. Just this morning alone I have seen so many acts of kindness and support. I wouldn’t know where I would be without them. Thanks y’all. You’re the best!