Who wants to do field work anyway!

Hi there! This is Alex your 3rd and final blogger of the summer. I will be Beth’s assistant for September but unlike the other two most of my work will be in the lab, so less pictures of the beautiful views of the Lake District and more of the soil in the lab!!! This may sound like I have a lack of enthusiasm for lab work, but I do feel that after the maybe more appealing fieldwork has been done (especially with the good summer we’ve had) there is important work analysing the samples that were collected to be done.


Me in the lab

Before we get started I would like to introduce myself. I have just graduated from Lancaster University with a 2:1 in Ecology. This year, like Freya I am carrying on my studies doing a Masters degree in resource and environmental management (MSc) still here at Lancaster. I have a keen interest in nature and believe strongly in environmental protection which has led my decisions in terms of what degree and Masters I would eventually go into. I volunteered with Beth last year as Amy did, so when a chance to get paid for doing similar work this summer came up I jumped at it. I know it’s been said a thousand times before but it can’t be stressed enough how valuable work experience is, so for me getting paid was a bit of a bonus! Many of my friends have graduated and are having little luck finding a graduate job so anything to boost the CV is very helpful.

Having said all this it’s not all about “CV boosting” I feel it’s nice to be able to help Beth with her PhD and it is a great opportunity to share the lab with some top researchers and in a small part at least contribute something to a part of the scientific community that do some really valuable work. Also it is quite good fun!

So, on my first day I did actually have an enjoyable day in the field using Infra-red gas analysers (IRGAs) measuring the photosynthetic rate of plants growing under different treatment. We were in a beautiful part of the Yorkshire dales with the only drawback that as we were quite high up we were working in the clouds so visibility was very poor and we couldn’t enjoy the views. Oh well, we would just have to use our imaginations! The rest of the week was lab based, where I prepared samples for a variety of tests. My work involved weighing soil and cooking it an oven and even subjecting some of it to temperatures of 560°C. I know this isn’t very technical but I intend to go into more specifics of the lab work in later posts.

560 degrees!

560 degrees!

The days have gone fast and much of the work is very repetitive but quite therapeutic in a strange sort of way. The radio keeps me amused and failing that the very strange (and slightly rubbish) music taste of the volunteer lab assistant Richard is always a talking point. As I write this blog the rain is coming down hard and persistently as is often the case in the North West so I’d like to leave you with my thoughts at the moment: who would want to do fieldwork any way…


LEC in the typical Lancaster climate.

Alex 🙂