Friday findings – volume 4

This week was rough. All four family members have been sick, and one of them twice – with a four day healthy intermezzo.

Yet, things have also been quite great in my life in ecology. Here’s a couple of highlights (no real lows this week):

1 – I had a shared first author paper accepted in the journal Plant and Soil. It’s from an experiment I did with a friend and collaborator in 2018. In it, we were mainly interested in testing the effects of above- and belowground insect herbivory on the quality of plant litter, and how this would in turn affect litter-plant feedbacks. This was a massive experiment, where many colleagues at the time were involved. Then the experiment was in the pocket, and we somehow forgot about it. Until we dusted it off earlier this year, ran all analyses and wrote it up. Jon pulled the heavy weight on this one, but we’ve done a lot of mental wrestling on it together, as well as multiple rounds of fine-tuning. It was a breeze to work on together, and even though the effects of insect herbivory on litter feedbacks were not huge, I still think this is important knowledge, and I’m happy to see that it has found a final resting place.

2 – A second paper – a review this time – with the same collaborator and a bunch of other collaborators in that field (‘plant-soil feedbacks’), has been submitted. This also was a fun collab. Writing reviews is always both fun and tough, because of the amount of information to synthesize. But if you divide the work over multiple enthusiastic and nice colleagues, it becomes much more pleasurable, and the workload much more manageable. This one contains a bunch of people I’ve wanted to collab with for a while, but somehow it never happened. I guess this is a nice connection in that sense.

3 – I’m not sure I mentioned this, as I missed a couple of Friday Findings. We resubmitted the first PhD chapter of one of ‘my’ PhD students. I think we did a great job on polishing it up in line with reviewer’s comments. I have a very good feeling about that one. Let’s keep fingers crossed.

4 – This week my colleague Sarah and I finished our first round of insect and plant assays and recordings. Our insect traps were very full, and I am very keen to look into their contents next week. Let’s find out if visiting insects or predators care about plant chemistry.

5 – After a couple of disastrous days during the heat wave two weeks ago, we’ve now turned the tide, and things are again looking brighter. Our aphid colonies now look healthy and happy (I just checked). It’s quite nice to work with an animal that is as prolific as an aphid, although you would be surprised at how easy it is to wipe them out in a colony. The tansy plants in the greenhouse are almost ready for the real insect infestations. I had a good call today to arrange our belowground treatments, and it seems that they – too – are ready to go. Hang in there plants, animals, and team. A couple more weeks!

6 – I had a good meeting yesterday with two PhD students. They’re analyzing a large dataset of Germany-wide samplings of tansy plants and aphids. They’ve done a tremendous amount of work and analysis, and we were almost there. Yesterday, I helped them to lay out the story in figures. I think almost all of it is there now. Now the write up can begin. Or well, probably after field season.

7 – I had an interesting meeting with the climate chamber facility people on Tuesday. The greenhouse lab people are taking over management, which is probably a good thing. Some things went wrong on the engineering end, and this was often difficult to solve, either for lack of expertise, or situations were individual ‘hands were tied’. We discussed conditions for an upcoming artificial light experiment (October), and I had a good feeling about this. This may have been a good decision!

Meh. That’s enough for this week. Time for the weekend.

Full traps!
Me acting busy in the field
Greenhouse full of Tansy

Published by Robin Heinen

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

2 thoughts on “Friday findings – volume 4

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