After months of computer-based work, universities have opened and I can finally work on starting an experiment! It feels almost strange to be working on the design of an experiment and actually doing some practical stuff. I’ve gotten kind of used to lots of reading and writing and I’m enjoying it. Nevertheless, getting some of your own data, analysing that and writing that up is way more exciting. Also somewhat scary. This would be the first experiment for my PhD, and it’s not that I’ve never designed or performed an experiment before, but it somehow feels different. Maybe that’s because it’s a whole new system I’m working on, or because I don’t know many of the research methods, or simply because it’s my first experiment and I want to do a good job. Probably it’s a combination of all of this, plus the general unfamiliarity with the protocols, the university systems that are different from what I’m used to, or the field sites that I don’t know. But today was the day on which I could (partly) take one of these things off the list. It was time to go to the field and stick my head in the water!
For my PhD, I’ll be working on seagrass-sediment interactions and how we can potentially use beneficial belowground microbes to enhance seagrass restoration efforts. I’m particularly interested in the effects of climate change on these interactions, so for my first experiment I want to look at the effects of belowground microbes on seagrass performance during a heatwave. For this, I will be running a mesocosm experiment at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS). To do this experiment, I will need to collect seagrass and sediment from the field. So today, my supervisor and I checked out a site close to SIMS that has the species I want to work with (Zostera muelleri).
This was actually the first time I saw this seagrass and it was amazing. I mean, spending your morning snorkelling in a bay in Sydney Harbour, doesn’t sound bad, right? The seagrass looked good and healthy, and they were on average at a depth of 1.5 m, which would make it easy to collect them. I finally got a better feel for how to work with this species, how to collect them and where to find them. Next week, we will go to another field site where I could do some future field experiments. Already looking forward to that!