Trial run, whooooo!

This week I did a full trial run of the field protocol, and it went GREAT! Super exciting!

Here is Marcia Macedo, being my field assistant for the day, even though she is a way better scientist than me and approximately one million times more experienced. Marcia rules! She was the official time keeper and data writer-downer. Plus she is my general advice-giver this week and always.

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Here is the set up of one of five chambers that we sampled every 20 minutes for an hour:

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Here is the picture of the lab where all the samples go afterwards and where the magic of soil processing happens:

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I spent much of last week scrubbing bat poo off the walls of this lab. So, needless to say, this lab and I are officially now old friends. Marcia noted that scrubbing bat poo off its walls is pretty much a mandatory rite of passage at this field site.

Samples!  (Yeah, those are empty bottles of air.  Experimental air!)

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One minor setback: when we were packing up the truck to head into the forest for the trial run, I picked up one of the gas sampling chambers and the o-ring around the edge had been all chewed up by some animal.

That was weather stripping from Home Depot, you bastards! It wasn’t meant to be delicious!!! Why would you eat that?????

Critters in the tropics will eat ANYTHING. Jerkfaces!

And the plot thickened! When I got back from dinner last night, what do I find? But a colony of ants eating more of my weather stripping!  Are you kidding me?

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So I dumped baby powder all over them, which seemed to scare them away. But not before one of the little guys made a beeline for me and bit me on the foot! Double jerkfaces!!! I guess I did screw up their dinner party… but, still.

Kate Brauman suggests smearing tiger balm all over things I want to render inedible.  Don’t think I won’t do it, my little ant friends.

In any case, now that the trial run went smashingly, all we do is sit back and wait for approval from the farm to conduct sampling on their fields as well as in the forest, all while having my fingers crossed that approval will, eventually, get the ok. If not, maybe this blog can become one of my dissertation chapters – eh, they’re pretty much the same thing, right?

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We were measuring it wrong

Two reports this week letting us know that we should be measuring something better when it comes to earth system science in the tropics:

– We often aren’t surveying large enough areas to figure out how trees in the Amazon respond to and recover from big disturbances like storms and droughts.  If you do a landscape-level survey using a combo of field work and remote sensing, like these guys did (Chambers et al., 2013), you might find 9-17% more tree mortality than we would otherwise expect.

– We should have also been looking at the Indonesian peatland carbon getting exported in streams (Moore et al., 2013). This study shows that accounting for carbon that’s no longer locked up in peatland soils and is now being lost to the stream system could increase the total GHG emissions post-land use/land cover change from peatlands by more than 20%. Plus, that carbon being lost is crazy “ancient” and implies an inherent instability in the peatland carbon dynamics post-deforestation.  Bad news bears.

And the slow steady march of getting progressively better at answering questions (and at deciding which questions to ask) continues…

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Anta (tapir) sez: science!!!