Agroecology in Southern IL: Field Notes from June

Roosevelt University Sustainability Studies major Allison Breeding was awarded a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) fellowship this summer at Southern IL University. This is the fourth installment of weekly blogs this summer from Allison on the work she is doing for her research fellowship.

The second half of June greeted me with more fun REU activities, more initial lab tests, and visits from family. Here’s a run-down on my science activities from that time of my internship:

  • Bioassessment tests and organism sampling in Big Creek
  • Ecological Measurement session on stream nutrient monitoring, readings and discussion on Gulf hypoxia
  • Pre-incubation of my 18 intact soil cores
  • Grinding and drying approx. 20g of soil from each of my 18 composite samples, to prep for Total C and N tests
  • Weighed out approx. 8-10g from each of my 18 composite samples (x3) into serum bottles—for a total of 54 subsamples—to prep for extraction of Available N and chloroform fumigation methods
  • Conducted NEXT (extractable nitrogen) tests on 18 of my subsamples: 1) saturated soil with potassium chloride; 2) agitated the saturated soil for an hour on the “shaker” machine; 3) allow separation of contents to occur; 4) filter up to 20ml of top solution layer into vial; 5) refrigerate prior to running segmented flow analysis
  • Send the first round of air sample injections from my intact cores into the gas chromatograph (GC)—recording standard curves and peak areas of N2O and CO2 concentrations in the samples
  • Collection of another 18 soil cores (5cm in length) in total from study sites (CT, NT and ORG fields), using the “Giddings” soil corer
Sampling the watercolumn of Big Creek

Sampling the watercolumn of Big Creek

Measuring extracted nitrogen from soil samples

Measuring extracted nitrogen from soil samples

Injecting air samples from soil cores in the gas chromatograph to measure nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide levels

Injecting air samples from soil cores in the gas chromatograph to measure nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide levels

I also managed to fit in a couple of local adventures, such as a visit to Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest and Cave-in-Rock Park with my fiancé; and hiking in Giant City State Park with my parents, along with a trip to Alto Pass and Bald Knob.

Exploring the Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest

Exploring the Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest

From this point onward, a large percentage of my time was spent in the SIU Life Sciences building, my mentor’s lab, and the core facility. This hurt my hopes of developing a true “farmer’s tan” this summer, but the lab process itself was extremely fascinating, eye-opening and rewarding…and yes, admittedly very challenging!

Allison BreedingAllison Breeding is a senior Sustainability Studies major at Roosevelt University. She was awarded an agroecology research fellowship through a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) fellowship this summer at Southern IL University. This summer she is writing from the field as a SUST at RU guest blogger.

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