Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Chile Day 3

The best hotel in town
So yesterday Jose drove me to Quillota and my next hotel - the Open Hotel. Contrary to reports it isn't the only hotel in town so "the best hotel in town" label given it by Alexander grows slightly in significance! It is indeed next to the railway line but the Copper trains only go past a few times a day.

At the hotel I was introduced to Alexander, Pedro and Victor. Pedro, like Jose is an ex MSc student now helping Alexander with research, Victor is a current MSc student. We then had lunch. Lunch is the main meal of the day in Chile.

The Quillota Agronomy school campus
After lunch we drove out to the Agronomy school which is on the edge of Quillota just into the country side, very quiet. There are about 500 students in total - undergraduate and MSc.

I was given an office, told where the kettle was and given a tour of the labs. These are pretty good with most of the stuff that I'd expect in a basic UK soils lab.

My office
A soils lab. I'm pretty jealous of the space
for soil sieving - I'm hoping we get
something similar in our new building

After the lab. tour I was bombarded with data that Victor, Pedro and Jose have gathered and was told that the idea of the funding was that we wrote a scientific paper. In essence there is an earthworm test you can do to see if soil is unpleasant or not. You get a container fill one side with your test soil, the other half with a "nice" soil. Then you put earthworms in the middle of the container and see which soil they go into. If the test soil is unpleasant they avoid it and all go into the "nice" soil.

The experiment that Victor has done is to investigate whether this test could be used to assess Chilean soils for metal contamination - there's a lot of copper mining going on and it can contaminate the soils. The challenge is that other stuff can make soil unpleasant for earthworms and so working out why an earthworm doesn't like a soil isn't always straight forward. Anyway we pondered that and then it was time to go home. Alexander drove me into Quillota to see the sights - took about 5 minutes - then we had a bit of a drive to a restaurant that turned out to be closed and got a puncture so we had to change a wheel. After that we kind of gave up on food and Alexander dropped me at the hotel.

Jose, Alexander, Pedro, Victor and myself 
tucking into a pastel di chocio washed 
down with custard apple juice
Today we made some progress on looking at the data. Despite a lot of uncertainty the  avoidance test does actually spot the contaminated and clean soils quite well. So we now have a plan for a paper as well. At lunchtime we went back to the restaurant that was closed yesterday (no punctures this time) and had a "pastel di chocio" which is like a pie filled with mince, egg, olive, bits of chicken etc. and topped with mashed corn. Apparently this is traditional Chilean cuisine, it was OK. I also had a custard apple fruit juice. Again this was OK but I don't think that I'll repeat the experience.

This evening Alexander tried to take me to a Peruvian restaurant but again it was closed - I can see a pattern emerging! Tomorrow I give a talk to the MSc students. It will be translated into Spanish as I go along. I'm sure it will be a big hit!

A custard apple

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