My entomologist’s office

Aphids on the right. Plant rearing in the windowsill.

My office got a bit of a makeover. It was born out of necessity, but I may actually like it better this way.

As I wrote a few days back, one of my team members has been working really hard over the past few weeks to establish a healthy culture of two aphid species. They had some hurdles to take, but I think they managed well. In fact, so much so, that for both species we now have two healthy main cultures, and for one of them, we even have two backup cultures.

As this week is also the harvest week of our big field experiment, which is located a couple hundred kilometers away, someone had to mind the aphids. I gladly volunteered to do so. Aphid-sitting is one of my skills. Growing plants happens to be another (and my rather limited and peculiar skill set may end right about there).

I’m the type of guy that mostly runs on memory. In my daily routine, I rarely write things down (and when I do, I forget to look at the notes I made). I am working on my calendar use, but I have never been very good at sticking with the practice. I memorize things. And I do a reasonable job at doing it without help. It somehow works for me, but it also sometimes happens that I forget silly things as a result. As it has never led to any major fuck-ups, I stick with it. On this particular aphid-sitting job, though, I don’t want to risk a screw-up. These aphids are important, and so are the plants.

And so I decided to prepare space to grow them in optimal conditions. A place that I could not forget, even if I had a streak of bad days. It had to be my office. Plants under daylight growth lights in my office windowsill. Aphids under growth lights on my old desk. Both connected to timers that consistently run in a long-day regime. I figured that by doing it this way, I would be reminded of the task every day, regardless of my schedule. Previously, the plants and aphids were placed in various places in our department, but none of them were places I would regularly walk by.

This was a recipe for fuck-uppery.

Nope.

They needed to be in my office.

And I like it, too. First off, the bright daylights are not bad for feeling good, I think. But more importantly, it makes me feel like a proper entomologist again. For the past two years, a technician has been meticulously running our department cereal aphid cultures, and I only touched the colonies when I needed aphids for experiments. Sometimes I felt more like a typist than an actual entomologist. I never signed up for being a typist… I want to look at insects. And so I like my new office layout. I prefer it this way. After this experiment is over, I may actually start my own rearing of something six-legged for use in future experiments… I’ve missed it. Not sure what yet, but I’ll figure something out.

Admit it – it’s a good office, eh?! I recommend aphid cages!

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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