-- Karin Burghardt, PhD Candidate
For most people the trees losing their leaves for the year invokes a bit of sadness for the lost summer, however, I am breathing a sigh of relief. The end of the growing season and loss of leaves means a respite from fieldwork and a chance to reflect on how my experiment is shaping up (and how much more there is to be done).
Last fall the lab helped me with an epic construction project to erect 28 raised beds at my field site and fill them with 20 tons of sand and 20 tons of field soil –accomplished by wheelbarrow (I know I owe them all my first born… but probably they would prefer cookies for life).
In any case this past June I planted into the sandboxes mixtures of goldenrod genotypes known to express different plant defensive traits. The experiment also manipulates soil nutrients and herbivory. Over the next few years I will measure how plant defensive traits, herbivores, and nutrients influence plant and herbivore fitness and competition as well as trace nutrient cycling within the sandboxes.
As a result, over the summer I spent a lot of time taking plant and nutrient measurements and playing Where’s Waldo with my grasshopper herbivores within the sandbox enclosures.