Austin Simonpietri - June 2018

Between May 15th to June 15th I have been moving between lab work, field work and experimental set up for projects related to chemical ecology. 

In the greenhouse we have been setting up for the experiment to measure the volatile organic compounds (VOC) emitted by the species piñon pine under drought conditions. The set up is going well and nearly done, with only a few slight modifications needed and for the trees to fully acclimate to controlled greenhouse conditions. With a little extra time at this point of the experiment it has allowed me to join in on some field work related to my primary research project. In order to become better acquainted with the process of taking samples of these VOC's I have helped out with the the collection of similar compounds from wheat plants up in Havre, MT. This was done for a study regarding different termination and fallow treatments on wheat. Helping with this research familiarized me with the experimental process and the nuances with equipment related to the field of chemical ecology and collection of VOC's. Ultimately it has made me more comfortable and knowledgeable with what we are doing in the greenhouse, as well as given me insight on how such research is conducted in the field. When I am not setting up in the greenhouse or up in Havre helping with wheat I am looking at chromatograms. The chromatograms I am looking at are VOC data collected from past experiments similar to what we will be collecting with the piñons. This research was done by Dr. Trowbridge on both spruce and pine species. I have been working on this data as it will be how we analyze our data when we collect it. Working on these chromatograms has given me quality practice on what will be one of the main tools we will use to quantify our data at the end of the summer.

Looking ahead.
In the weeks to come I will continue all three types of work I have done so far. My time will increasingly shift from the in-lab chromatogram work to in-the-greenhouse collection of the droughted piñons' VOC's. I am becoming increasingly excited about this part of the research after the insights I have gained from the other work I have done. I plan on helping with the Havre field site when they go up to collect, in order to continue gaining field experience.

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