QC, scanning, and a new x-ray machine!

Today, the Lake Forest College students returned for their second day at the lab. After cleaning heads last week, they moved on to the next steps of the ACE process today: quality control and scanning. They worked in teams of two, so one group rechecked cleaned heads from rem2020 and rem2021 while the other group scanned the achenes that had passed the quality control step. The students will have a dataset of 40 echinacea heads from 2021, 20 burned and 20 unburned, as well as 40 heads from 2020. They wondered whether the drought this summer affected seed production in echinacea or whether controlled burns influence achene count, and they developed hypotheses to test these questions.

The new x-ray machine also arrived this week! It showed up in an enormous wooden crate, but fortunately the machine itself is not that large. Today, the company representatives gave us a tutorial of how to operate the x-ray. We will need to do some trials to find the best settings and adjust our protocol to the new machine. For example, we will need smaller sheets of paper to fit in the x-ray. Based on today’s test run, it seems that the x-ray can only hold 15 bags of achenes (3 rows of 5) at a time instead of 20 bags (4 rows of 5). However, each image takes only 45 seconds, so hopefully it won’t slow down the process too much. According to the Kubtec website, this model is also good at x-raying explosives, art, and gems, so I guess that might come in handy, too.


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