In April I shared some photos of labwork that I was undertaking to quantify levels of plant defences in the samples I have been gathering along the coast of Australia. That was a lot of work, and I now owe approximately 20k favors to various people. I learned a lot (all good things!), particularly about making things happen. Never underestimate the power of paperwork in slowing you down.
I had the distinct pleasure of working with the lovely duo down in the Wainwright Analytical Center (part of the SSEAU) here at UNSW. I won a grant to use a LECO carbon-nitrogen analyser on my samples for free, provided I did the work myself. Usually this costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 - $20 per sample (I had 330 samples), so I felt pretty pleased with the arrangement. The machine I was using required some babysitting and threw a few tantrums, but in the end I got my data. Precious, precious data.
Naively, I thought that once my labwork was done my life would become less hectic. Nope! Before I knew it, I was applying for the ESA 100th Annual Meeting in Baltimore. I got accepted for a full-length talk, hooray! I'm presenting on Wednesday, 12th August at 9 AM. So if you're in the neighborhood, please do drop by! I'll be sharing the defence and herbivory results of my awesome field trip, so it should be really exciting. I'm not even going to spoil the surprise here because I know you'll want to see it for yourself!
In June, I ran another GERRIC workshop for gifted high-schoolers. This was a lot of fun, as it was in January, but I felt like I needed to lay down for a nap by the end of each day. The workshop introduces some of the cooler sides of biology, and culminates with the students trying to out-do each other with presentations about weird biology and/or awesome organisms. Last time, only one student elected to focus on a plant. This time, three did: castor oil trees (Ricinus communis of ricin/umbrella shanking/Breaking Bad fame), carnivorous plants and Tepui mountains, and giant hogweed (photosensitizing weed of doom Heracleum mantegazzianum)! I'm fighting the good fight for plants, and slowing winning over some hearts and minds. I am slightly concerned the the excitement was contained to plants that kill and maim, but at this point I'll take what I can get. I'll know I'm doing great when I get some students jazzed about algae and fungi, too.
Also coming up is the 3-Minute-Thesis competition, which promises... to be quick? Just kidding, I attended one of these events as a spectator last year and it was a lot of fun. It's like a quick succession of awesome science-in-progress alerts. It was inspiring, really. I've made a poster and a presentation for this shindig, and have a practice delivery of my one-minute talk next Thursday. 'One minute,' I hear you say incredulously, 'I thought it was a 3-minute-thesis competition?'. Well, the Faculty of Science gets so many applicants that they decided to whittle us down a bit quicker. Times are lean and attention spans are short, apparently. So if you're not doing anything on July 30th from 3 pm, come on down to Leighton Hall, Scientia Building at UNSW and absorb some knowledge, or at the very least, some nervous energy. You could also be that guy who picks on the student who never got the memo on posters and Comic Sans font. What more could you want?
There is, amazingly, heaps more going on at the moment, but I feel like this blog post is long enough. As ever, I should probably be getting some work done.
Until next time!