This may look like a bunch of typical academics demonstrating their finely honed skills but is actually a picture of the fire juggling group FullCircle
After the successful sampling trip of early January I am now (typing this I noticed the Freudian slip of writing "not" rather than "now"!) the proud owner of 200+ soil samples that need processing. January's beetle bank samples are now pretty much dry - they now need to be weighed, sieved and weighed again. This will allow me to calculate the soil density. They then need to be treated with acid to remove the carbonate and then I can measure their inorganic carbon content. I reckon I can get the weighing an sieving done in a day. The acid treatment will take longer. So the aim here is to get them ready for acidification by the end of Feb.
Andrea Harper in our Biology dept. kindly spent some of her time showing me how to use RNA extraction kits so I'm all primed for the next step of the earthworm - plant communication work. Probably 8 days of work there, the trickiest thing will be grinding up my plant samples which are currently stored at -80C without them defrosting, the rest is down to good pipetting.
I managed to measure the pH of the carbon sequestration samples last week and this week phosphorus measurements are pencilled in. I've also had a good conversation with Harvey Wood at the Clean Rivers Trust about the work and am meeting him in a few weeks time to talk further.
Last week was also occupied by an earthworm workshop in Dusseldorf. This was a great opportunity to talk earthworms and revisit ideas and considerations from Alice Johnston's Syngenta funded PhD of a few years ago now that Richard Sibly and myself were involved in, along with Tania Alvarez and Pernille Thorbek (now at BASF). The workshop was all about producing a computer model, acceptable by regulators and industry, that could predict how earthworms respond to applications of agrochemicals in the field. This could save industry a lot of time and money and have all sorts of spin offs in terms of understanding and predicting earthworm ecology.
The conference was set in an area of old docklands which is being developed in a way that seems far more sympathetic than London's Docklands area. There are old buildings preserved and even incorporated into the new builds.
|The Innside hotel at Dusseldorf, set in the old docklands area.|
|Discussing earthworm movement controls with (clockwise from left) Alice Johnston, Yvan Capowiez, Vanessa Roeben, Martin Holmstrup and Kevin Butt.|
|Not just earthworms - visiting a local brewery one evening to help with discussions!|
The meeting was funded by a European Food Safety organisation and showed how Europe has really helped with science and science-informed policy. Of course, it has been a mad three years in the UK and Friday, the day after getting back from Dusseldorf, was, according to many the day that Brexit happened. It's not over by a long shot with lots of negotiations to come but it did make me wonder on the way home whether that was my last hassle free trip to Europe in the near future. Hopefully not.
|EU passport control at Dusseldorf airport - no queues, no hassle. Fingers crossed this continues to be the case.|