Monday, June 11, 2012

Day 1!

Today was my first day working at Notre Dame with the Karner Blue team.  I had met Jessica and Jason once before when I came in for new employee paperwork but today was day one on the job.  Jason and Frank were the only two in the lab. Jason set me to work with Frank right away. Before I knew it I was going through miniature plastic cups with forceps and a thin bristled paint brush searching for what amounted to the smallest caterpillars I had ever seen. Each egg was a pale teal color and easily as small as a pin head if not smaller. The tiny larva appeared hardly distinguishable from a small fleck of dirt save the fact that there was hardly any dirt to be found. I took the first tiny dirt fleck that I encountered to the lab’s binocular microscope and turned pink with delight as I watched it turn its body under the heat of the light. I learned about the coding system used on the lids of each container.




So, what does it all mean?

+6                           Indicated that the egg was exposed to temperatures 6 degrees higher than the constant. This could have also been +0, +2, or +4.

Subscript 2          This is the F1 generation.

C                             The parent generation was exposed to the control temperature.

17                           The numeric representation of the female parent

10                           The numeric representation of the male parent

The lineage of each offspring is recorded for to purposes of genetic analysis as well as to avoid inbreeding within the captive population.

L=2                         There are 2 larvae found in this container

6/8                         The date on which they were hatched and placed into their new growth chamber.

Each growth chamber was outfitted with a small cut of paper towel and a leaf of their favorite, in fact their only, source of nutrition: the lupin. A strict maximum capacity limit of two larvae per chamber was adhered to at all times with the exception of incubation chambers with a maximum capacity of roughly 50. 2 per growth chamber seemed easy to follow at first until incubation chambers containing 20 or more hatchlings began to become more and more frequent and the steps of cup, towel, leaf, larva, larva, label, lid, repeat became monotonous. It was further required that each container created also be cataloged on a data sheet that included all the information on the lid in addition to your initials and the day that the eggs had originally been collected.

After I finished the tray it was time to learn the next lab function: larvae feeding, then butterfly feeding, followed by separating mated females from the rest of the group, egg counting... This was going to take some time to become familiar with all the steps involved with raising a butterfly family.

After working in the lab I settled into my dorm. I’m staying in what I think was a convent or at least a dorm for women that is literally 100 years old. The rooms are old style dorms: 2 beds, 1 dresser, a sink, 2 outlets, and a light with the modern convenience of a ceiling fan. The bathrooms are down the hall and a box fan is provided for the window- no A/C. It’s hot! Really Really Hot!!! It’s going to be in the 90’s again tomorrow. On the good side the dorm is set on one of two ponds nestled next to the campus. I walked around one when I took a tour. I hear they’re each about a mile in circumference. I’ll run tomorrow but for today I went to the campus gym. I’m impressed with the equipment available at the gym but of course! It’s the NORTE DAME GYM!!! Of course it’s going to be nice! The campus is amazing. I had forgotten how gorgeous a college campus can be. Now if I can avoid getting lost...

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