Today Charlie and I had a few wins – seems like the 4th trip to Iceland is the charm. We’ve been continually working to streamline our DNA extraction procedures so they can be done reliably in a makeshift lab at Skalanes. Today we took another step toward creating that reality.
One of the major steps of extracting DNA from soils is to physically separate the DNA strands from soil particles. This is not as easy as it might seem. Many soils strongly attract DNA, and the specific soil type we are working with in Iceland, a Brown Andisol, is one of these strong DNA attractors. In order to separate the DNA from soil, we need to mix a bit of soil with specially-made beads. We also add a bit of powdered skim milk to help keep the DNA from re-binding to the soil particles once it unbinds. However, the mixing step, or “bead-beating,” is critical. It needs to be done using a special vortex adapter for 10-20 minutes. We have a small vortex in the lab at Skalanes, but we’re not sure if the adapter will fit it, or if it goes as fast as we need. Therefore, Charlie rigged up what we are calling the “Porta-Lyser.” Here is a video if it in action – looks like it works a treat.
Other wins for today – we were able to reduce our checked baggage quota by one; we have almost all of our gear ready to pack into the van (which means we get a late start tomorrow morning!); and we were able to score some great NatGeo t-shirts to wear while working in Iceland!
Tonight we will gather for some Gulzars and watch an Icelandic documentary at my house. Tomorrow we will finalize our checklists, print and laminate them so they are ready for the field, and pack up the van that will take us to Chicago early Friday morning for the first leg of our journey.