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Externship Day 13: Finishing Randomization and the Introduction of Classifying!

I can’t believe our externship is almost over! Just yesterday we finished randomizing Liatris, so today we started randomizing Echinacea. The procedures were similar, except we used a circle (which looks like a carnival spin-the-wheel) instead of a grid when scattering achenes. The total achene numbers were also unusually small in 2020 and 2021 compared to the previous Echinacea collection years, so we actually had to alter the randomization protocol in order to get a minimum of 25 achenes that can be classified for pollination.

Here’s me, Cassie, and Wanying randomizing Echinacea by scattering the achenes on the circle (lower left) and using the letter randomizer on the project website to select achenes to be put onto the counting sheet (right of the circle)

We also x-rayed the rest of the Liatris today and learned how to classify achenes that have been x-rayed. These x-rays are meant to look at the seed status of the achenes in order to determine which achenes were pollinated. We used the Echinacea classification training module on the Echinacea Project website and created specific criteria for Liatris in order to mark the achenes as empty, partial, and full. We should be able to finish x-raying and classifying the Echinacea we randomized tomorrow morning!

The achene classification training module, which includes an interactive practice classifying session

However, the best part of my day was meeting with one of the Ph.D. students doing research in the lab, Drake, and learning about their current work with parasitic plants. Drake and Lea, who is another Ph.D. student that we met earlier in the week, gave valuable insight about preparing for grad school and Ph.D. programs. They especially gave great advice about not being afraid to cold email people we want to connect with as well as how to take advantage of our unscheduled time for research, especially in the latter Ph.D. program years.

I’m also excited for tomorrow, which is when we will finally get all of our data processed! With this data, we’ll be able to answer our research questions and input the results into our presentation for Friday’s lab meeting. I can’t wait to not just get the results, but also to discuss them and their implications with the project team!

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