The Tides have Terned

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~A late post for May 31~

What a wonderful and slightly surprising change in the weather! The clouds parted and the sun came out, brightening the obscenely picturesque landscape and our moods. Team Dirt made progress, taking soil samples from the gardens. We will be testing their nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium levels (NPK), building off previous years’ data to see if the soil quality has improved since our last visit. Team Drone got a chance to fly and collected a lot of data on the area. Luckily, they were able to fly at a high enough altitude to escape the angry terns. Those of us who went on a walk weren’t so lucky… they were not afraid to dive and peck at us, even when we stayed on the path.

We work hard, but we also play hard. Many of us enjoyed a lovely walk to the beach, crossing a beautiful waterfall running twice as fast thanks to all of yesterday’s rain. The rabbit is still at large, but at least we have a handle on its favorite hiding spot. Unfortunately, it’s also a popular hangout for these Greylag Geese, and they frequently hiss at us. Many birds were spotted today, including the awesome Ringed Plover. This little guy lures predators, and humans, away from its nest by pretending to have a broken wing, and then flying away.

Capping off the evening with a delicious risotto, Dan-icdotes, card games and a sauna, we made the most of our rare day without rain.

Hey, DNA!

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Our biology and soil team has begun a practice run of the sampling, DNA extraction, and MinION sequencing protocols so that we are prepared and familiar with the process before we get to Iceland. We started by collecting soil samples from various places around Earlham campus: The Heart, the Japanese garden by Stout, the horse barn, the rain garden by the Wellness Center, and a popular social gathering place back campus. We used Maria, one of our elevation platforms, to record the coordinates of each sample site, and as a placeholder for the soil temperature readings we will take in Iceland. We put the samples on ice to preserve the living organisms within, since we are trying to identify what kind of biotic activity takes place and varies at each site, both here at Earlham and eventually in Iceland on Sólheimajökull. Back at the lab, we extracted the DNA.

Much pipette fun was had by all!

We also ran a gel electrophoresis and a Nano Drop to test the quality of the DNA. The former told us how long the strands were, and the latter told us how many nanograms per microliter of DNA we had in our samples. Both yielded positive results, meaning we have a good quality and quantity of DNA to put through the MinION.

DNA on the gel tray

We had some technical difficulties at first with this new tech, but we made it work eventually and are now working on setting up the nanopore. We are almost ready to sequence the DNA and find out what microorganisms are living all around us! We had a great win the other day with QGIS. Though we had a rocky start, we were finally able to georeference our first map! Enthusiastic cheers echoed through the Turing room, and we all celebrated with a trip to Dairy Queen.