The Sweetener Flog

“When life deals us cards

Make everything taste like it is salt

Then you come through like the sweetener you are

To bring the bitter taste to a halt”

Ariana Grande, in the song “Sweetener” off of her latest album Sweetener (2018).

Greetings from the College of Wooster, or Team Echinacea East

This summer I helped conduct research about the differences in pollen removal and deposition (a measure of pollinator efficiency) across different taxa of solitary bees that visited Echinacea flowers, out at P2 (with Evan, Mia, and Jennifer Ison). In order to quantify pollen removal we collected anthers (the male part of the flower that presents pollen) before a bee visited and again after the visit; we suspended the anthers in water. In order to quantify the number of pollen grains in each sample. But what to do with these samples?

Here are all the sweet anther samples!

In order to quantify the number of pollen grains present in each sample I first break apart and shake up the anthers, to try to get the pollen evenly distributed in the solution; then I count a small amount of this pollen solution on a hemocytometer under a microscope (a hemocytometer is a sort of microscope slide with a grid that is used to count red blood cells in blood; I use it to count pollen particles in water).

Here’s the hemocytometer all loaded up with sweet pollen to count!

Now that the summer field season is over I’ve been able to spend quite a bit of time counting pollen. While I’ve been counting pollen I’ve been listening to music on my roommate’s portable speaker. Mostly I’ve been listening to Ariana Grande’s new album Sweetener. The title track which opens this flog post speaks directly to the relationship that I have developed with the act of counting pollen. It is the sweetener to my life. I struggle to leave the lab each night; wanting to get just a little more of that sweet taste of pollen counting. It brings the bitter taste of college life to a halt. I don’t know what it is about pollen counting that I like so much. Is it the repetitiveness of it? The simplicity? The repetition? It’s impossible to say. All that I know for sure is that I really hope that everyone can experience the sweetness that counting pollen brings to my life.

P.S. I really hope I find something to fill the void that will be left in my existence once I run out of pollen to count (I only have 340 samples or so, and I’m more than half way through them).



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