Friday findings – volume 7?

This week was horrible, so I excused myself and write this blog on a Saturday. I’m on day 7 of the covid ride and after feeling very sick but physically capable the first five or sick days, today the fatigue and brain fog kicked in. I feel like I’m moving through molasses and that whenever my body arrives somewhere, my brain arrives in that place a couple of seconds after. I constantly find myself waiting for my brain to get its shit together. I’m slowed down. I hope my sharpness will come back soon.

Despite covid, ecology continued. I’m not sure if it means I’m not needed in the team…? I’ll share some highlights of the week, and what I know about them.

1. Above and below – The team has officially started the above-belowground experiment that we have been prepping since May. What a beast. So much work, so much effort. On Monday, finally the belowground treatment with root herbivores was initiated. Yesterday, the aboveground parts received an aboveground treatment, which doubles as a response variable. We will follow aphid colonization on different chemotypes with and without root herbivory, to assess how root herbivory manipulates plant-aphid interactions, and to better understand how chemotype composition plays a role in mediating these interactions.

Lots of plants, arranged in a replicated randomized block design. The plants will be in a half open vegetation hall, which is the best choice, considering the current heat. Pic. A. Neuhaus.
Each plant got a nice mesh bag, with or without aphids, depending on their a priori treatment assignment. Pic. A. Neuhaus.

2. Retreat – On Monday we had a postdoc retreat. It wasn’t really a retreat, but rather a chair group strategic meeting in the seminar room. On Monday I only developed symptoms in the evening, so I figured I could join from my home office via Zoom. I think it was a useful meeting. I know I said what I wanted to say, and I think we found critical solutions to make the chair function even more smoothly where needed. I was pretty destroyed by the end of the day. In hindsight I wasn’t sure if I should have attended.

3. Cancel everything – I spoke to my therapist this week, also online. I wanted to speak to him, maybe even because I was sick this week. I struggle with giving things up and letting them go. I noticed that I was looking for solutions to offer my semester students everything for a smooth course despite being sick, and that I was jeopardizing my own recovery in doing so. He got very direct with me. I love him for that. I need that smack in the face sometimes. He told me: you are sick, and you need to cancel everything. Prioritize your recovery. They’re old enough to understand that you are unavailable. They will need to find another way to navigate their projects through the final week. He was right, but I feel guilty for even admitting that. I canceled everything from Wednesday. It’s something.

4. Accept – A very important manuscript I worked on with a large group (80 or so) of co-authors got accepted this week. I was one of the smaller core of four co-authors that shaped and wrote and polished the piece over the past year or so. This piece is special to me for many reasons. First, it’s a Harvey et al. paper. Jeff Harvey is the person responsible for me being in science. If you don’t like me here, blame Jeff. Jeff has been a mentor of mine since I met him in 2015, and I literally would not have found my calling if it weren’t for him. I wouldn’t be an ecologist. For that, any paper I write with Jeff is always a celebration of our great work together. The paper is also important because it’s about the effects of extreme climatic events on insects. Have you watched the news lately? All the heatwaves, floodings, fires, etc. What does that all do to insects? That’s what we discuss here. I find this a topic of tremendous importance. (So should you, as we hope to convince you on the paper.) Lastly, I wrote a part of this piece together with another mentor figure, who sadly passed away last year. He was also a frequent reader, commenter, and sharer of this blog. This paper is also a bit of an ode to his life’s work in entomology. I’m glad it will be available soon.

That’s it for this week. I hope to be back for an exciting in-person week in ecology next week. Have a good weekend!

Published by Robin Heinen

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

2 thoughts on “Friday findings – volume 7?

    1. That’s exactly what I hope. Luckily for insects, we can all be supportive and do something nice at local scales. I count on politicians to do very little. It’s up to those that care enough!

      Liked by 1 person

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