Friday Findings – Vol. 1

I promised myself that Fridays would be for a short recap of whatever it is we achieved this week in our tiny nook of ecology. This week was a very short week – Ascension Day being a bank holiday and also having taken today off. Nonetheless it was a pretty exciting week. Here’s some of the week’s highlights, in no particular order.

1) Rebuttal – One of the PhDs finished their first rebuttal letter and revisions for a very nice manuscript that we’re resubmitting to Plant, Cell & Environment. The first is always the most exciting, and I think this is true for the candidate as well as the supervisor!

2) Field prep – With great help from one PhD and two master students, we prepared our tansy field experiment in Freising for upcoming field assays. I’m super happy with how this field experiment established last year. Everyone laughed at me, and promised me it would fail. I was the only one who believed I could save these leftover plants from the compost pile and designed and planted an experiment a week or so before the birth of my daughter (and two months of leave). I was right. It looks amazing, and therefore I’m very excited to figure out this season how plant chemodiversity will affect insect plant visitation, in particular by herbivores and predators. This is a very sweet experiment, and I’m happy to have it so close to home (our other experiment in Jena is 4 hours away). Our technician also got very excited when I asked her to be heavily involved. This will be fun!

These tansy bushes are composed of different chemotype lines and combinations. Paths were mown and plots freed from larger weeds. Ready for our insect assays.

3) Semester projects – I supervise five students divided over two semester projects this summer. One project focuses on the effects of artificial light at night on seed germination in a couple of plant species that I used in a recent experiment. I thought this information would nicely complement the earlier work we have done. Maybe I can even use it as supporting information for the story I hope to write up soon. The second project is also very interesting, and combines my PhD work on soil legacy effects on plant-insect interactieve with an existing field experiment called LegacyNet. We will investigate if soil legacies of plant diversity will influence crop-pest interactions. We hope that the positive effects of diversity also increase crop resistance.

Seeds sown, pots randomized, let the experiment begin.

4) Roots! – Our two tansy PhD projects heavily rely on the success of plant propagation in spring. A couple of weeks back we took cuttings from our 18 chemotype lines. This week we found a huge boost in the number of successfully rooted cuttings. This is a huge step. It almost guarantees that these two projects will have successful suer experiments. In ecology, we work with living things, and it’s not always a given that things work out the way they were intended. It’s a massive relief every time when something works as planned.

5) Whoops – I found out I made a mistake in calculations of relative effect sizes for a study we’re writing up with some colleagues. It was silly. I literally paired root treatments to shoot controls, instead of to the appropriate root controls, for a specific analysis and figure we made. Although most of the analyses and results were luckily not affected by it, this small aspect of the study was… It meant making new figures and a reasonably strong rewrite. Nonetheless, I’m happy that I found out now. Note to self: always (have other people) double-check!

6) Pollen problem – Hay fever sucks. I’m lucky that my immune system seems not to care about foreign plant particles, but others are not so lucky. One team member had a tough week in the field, and we’re considering longer-term solutions. If you have great field work tips to alleviate hay fever, let me know. If you happen to know students looking for a side job in Jena, Germany, also let me know.

7) Talks – I have been asked to give several talks at different German universities in the next few weeks. Obviously I think this is a great opportunity to let others know about our work and I’m stoked and honored, but at the same time it also makes me horribly nervous. On Monday I’m up for a talk in the Van Kleunen lab at the university of Konstanz. Bielefeld and Würzburg are scheduled in the weeks ahead. Exciting!

Yeah. I guess that’s about it for this week!

Published by Robin Heinen

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

2 thoughts on “Friday Findings – Vol. 1

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