This week in the soil lab was group project week! The soil group in Lancaster has set up an experiment investigating the effects of flooding on the soil and vegetation in meadowlands. Part of the reason behind the group endeavour was that everyone in the group could gain skills and knowledge of techniques they may not have come across. For me obviously most of the tasks were new so it was nice to get a go at many different techniques. The flooding aspect of the experiment was simulated by filling paddling pools to varying amounts of water. I’ve soon realised that there are some very sophisticated bits of kit in the lab that Helen the lab manager has tried to explain to me but sometimes simple solutions such as paddling pools do the trick!
The highly technical equipment!
So on Monday morning graduates, masters and PhD students, lab managers, postdoctoral researchers and researching lecturers alike joined forces to embark on a week of field and lab work! My first two days were in the field at hazelrigg, a field study area handily a few minutes up the hill from the university. The weather was mainly good for the two days and I was mostly given the job of cutting out vegetation that was planted in plots and left to grow since April, and sorting them into species. In some of the pots there were 9 different species so separating each species was harder than I first expected and not very kind on the back even for a relatively fit 21 year old!
Hazelrigg: the field site.
The following three days were spent in the lab, one of which being entirely devoted to sieving wet clay soil through a 2mm mesh; clearly this wasn’t the easiest task! The following days were mainly concentrated on weighing vegetation sample and getting soil samples ready for a variety of tests including finding the carbon and nitrogen content and microbial role in the soil.
I found it really interesting to get a taste of how various tests can show how important a role soil can play in shaping the environment around us. It was also really nice to work in a team for a week. I’ve found although it’s interesting work it can get quite lonely and tedious in the lab. So being part of a group experiment meant that everyone could pick each other up, especially on the soil sieving day camaraderie was definitely needed! It was also good to get the viewpoints of everyone in the group as there is a wide spectrum of people at different stages of their careers.
So overall it was a very valuable week showing me the importance of teamwork in research as more ideas can be put forward and it certainly makes the work load lighter! Also it meant as the work came to an end on Friday eating copious amounts of cake was in order!