With two trials of seed plates running at the same time at various levels of progress (this means 182 petri dishes of 25 seeds each), and three trials left to be made, a day in my lab is usually nice and full of many activities that need to be done. I tend to vary my day’s activities just based on what needs to be done to upkeep and observe the plates, but we can look at Friday as an example of particulars.
On Friday, like many days before, I came into my lab and looked for a brief period (maybe 10 minutes) through my lab notebook, to see the dates of the last times I had performed various tasks. Though it is important that I start setting up new trials when I get a chance, it also doesn’t make sense to leave tasks that I’d started on other days incomplete, or to start a new trial without giving my existing seedlings the water they need to survive.
On Friday I saw that I still had one concentration of trial 1 and all seeds from trial 2 left to sort through for sprouts and plant the existing sprouts. This task is kind of fun to me because I had only just begun it the day before, on Thursday, so it is still new and exciting. For this process, what I do is I take all the plates in which I am looking for germinated seeds out of the dark drawer in which they are germinating, I then look at each plate and remove any seeds that look well germinated and ready for planting (Some things I look for to determine this are: Has the sprout from the germinated seed left or almost left the seed coat? Has the sprout developed leaves? Is there green in the sprout or is it mostly still root emerging from the seed coat?). I then weigh whatever I remove from the plate so that later when I weigh the plate to add back the water loss, I don’t count the missing sprouts in the weight of lost water. After I have recorded all of the weights, I go down to the greenhouse with my cart. In the greenhouse, I get seed trays and fill them with soil, then thoroughly wet the soil. I bring these trays back up to the lab in Biosci and I plant the germinated seeds. Each pocket in the seed tray holds one species of plant at one concentration of pretreatment saline water. So for example, I do not plant persea palustris sprouts that were germinated with 0.5 ppt saline water in the same pocket as persea palustris sprouts that were germinated at 2.0 ppt. After I plant all the sprouts, labeling each pocket along the way, I return to the greenhouse with my trays and set them on my designated bench.
I finished my day out by taking care of plates that have been affected by mold, which has proven to be quite a time-consuming pest. In my observation of trial 2, I have noticed less of a mold prominence, likely because I knew to expect molding by the time I made the trial, so I am always quick to clear away even the tiniest amount before they spread and give me some of the complications I’ve seen in trial 1. On Friday I left my lab around 4:15 so that I could do some weekend errands, but I typically leave around 5:30 at this stage of my project.
Other tasks I might do on a typical day include recording observations of each seed plate (Have more seeds in the plate germinated? How many? What other changes are apparent?), then weighing the plates to determine water loss based on an original weight I have recorded in my journal. I then bring the weight back to original weight. Though not exciting sounding by description, there is seemingly always the reward of seeing new baby sprouts, which is cute and satisfying. The last main thing I do is create trials, which just means for each trial, I make 96 plates containing 25 seeds each in a 5 by 5 array (16 species of plant at 6 concentrations of saline water).
At home after, I usually work on putting all my data into excel, and when I am up to date on that, I will start trying to learn a program called R that my PI said will become helpful for me to know as I progress in biology.
So the lab has kept me busy, but of course very interested because I’m working on plants which I am eager to learn about in all manner of ways. Plus as part of my greenhouse training I got a tour of the greenhouse and I saw all kinds of plant wild species from all over the world, and it was very cool.