I just finished a 3.5 hour drive this evening, to the university town of Jena, where we are currently running a tansy chemodiversity field experiment alongside the bigger, older, boringly named, yet much better-known ‘Jena Experiment’. Briefly I considered spending the night in Lederhose, just so I could tell people I slept in Lederhose. As it was only twenty minutes further to Jena I figured it wasn’t worth it, but a man can dream.
The reason I’m here is that we will run a sampling campaign, in which we will collect the volatile organic compounds released by our plants. Volatiles are compounds that many plant-associated organisms use to find plants – or to avoid them. Basically you could say that it’s plant talk. Collecting these gases is a special kind of work that isn’t necessarily super difficult – in theory – but you have to know what you’re doing. The PhD candidate in charge and I both only have limited practical experience with collection of volatiles in the field, but we are supported by experienced local colleagues that know their stuff. This way we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and we all benefit from the collaboration in the end.
As always when you’re doing things in ways that no one has done them before, and solutions are tailored to the specific experiment, there are decisions that need to be made. Even though everything is prepared and ready, there will probably be some hickups along the way. My main reason for being here this night and tomorrow, is to help iron out some of the potential hickups, and support the PhD in the decision making. As her supervisor, I figured that’s the least I could offer. I personally prefer discussion on-site over cryptic description over the phone. (I hate phone calls anyway!)
I am of course also here to take some pictures. (For that I’m in full support of my phone.)
So tomorrow it’s on. I’m excited and looking forward to walking this new path. Let’s see how these plants communicate with the world around them.