Follow-up of Fieldwork at Home

So here’s an update to the Hawaii research project I have been participating in.

We have been going back to the site to re-monitor the plots, checking to see if the fruit or seeds have been eaten by other animals, or if they have actually germinated and are starting their next life cycle, or if they have succumbed to some other fate.

This trip we were also accompanied by Tressa Hoppe, an undergraduate research assistant working in our lab. Tressa has been helping to set-up and monitor these plots, as well as set up some germination experiments to assess germination in a controlled environment – meaning in an environment where we can keep as many factors as controlled as possible (i.e. amount of water, sunlight, soil type).

 Zoe Hastings giving us our field instructions. 

Zoe Hastings giving us our field instructions. 

 Tressa Hoppe preparing her notebook for data collection.

Tressa Hoppe preparing her notebook for data collection.

The day started out by splitting into two teams. Zoe Hastings, who is leading the project with my advisor, Dr. Ticktin, went off by herself to monitor the plots, and Tressa and I set out together. We found some interesting results!

Many of the seeds, and even some of the fruit, had started to germinate. First off, germination just means that the seed, which is dormant, has started to develop a root and will soon be developing its first leaves – the arms and legs if you will. We didn’t see much germination occurring, but where we did see it, it was mostly in plots where the seed had been separated from the pulp of the whole fruit. We were excited to see a few instances though where this was not true, and some seeds still inside dried up old fruits, had also begun to germinate.

  Diospyros   sandwicensis seed germinating.

Diospyros sandwicensisseed germinating.

One unfortunate fate of the seeds, although interesting to us, is that some of them have succumbed to a mysterious blue mold, or we assume it is a mold. A very pretty color indeed, however, not such a great ending to the seeds we are trying to monitor as this renders them unviable (i.e. unable to germinate and grow up into a tree). We don’t know what it is yet, but we are going to send them over to some folks in the Plant and Environment Protection Sciences who graciously have helped us identify these types of things in the past.

 Infected seed.

Infected seed.

In order to try and see what kinds of critters may be eating our seeds, and since we can’t keep an eye on our plots all the time, we installed cameras at a few select places in the area that will take pictures every time there is a disturbance in the field of view. We haven’t analyzed these photos yet, but it will be exciting to see what we capture.

 Camera trap in place.

Camera trap in place.

Unfortunately, there is not much else to share in terms of exciting outdoor field work and activities. For now I am mostly studying for me comprehensive exams, trying to prepare for fieldwork in Fiji, and staying a healthy grad student. We are currently hiring new faculty at our Department though, and as a Graduate Student Representative, I am assisting in getting other graduate student feedback of the potential hires. Perhaps this will be the topic of my next blog post! Until then, J