Return to life after lockdown. What has been happening in our laboratory?

Post authored by Ph.D. candidate Alta Saunders

With the easing of lockdown regulations, life has started to return back to normal in our laboratory. Some students have been allowed to return back to campus (following stringent health and safety protocols) and research projects have started-up again. After being away from our laboratory for almost 2 months, the return started with a bang.

One of the projects in the EucXylo lab focuses on how photosynthesis is constrained by water availability. Plants must constantly balance water dynamics while maximizing carbon uptake. To understand this trade-off, it is important to understand the underlying photosynthetic and hydraulic physiology of different plant species.

Measuring various photosynthetic parameters with our trusty Licor 6400.

With our Eucalyptus trees in a healthy condition (thank you to the senior staff who took care of the nursery during the lock down period), I got a quick start to measuring some photosynthetic parameters.

Focus was given to two Eucalyptus hybrids: E. grandis x camaldulensis and E. urophylla x grandis. These specific species were chosen as they have different tolerances to drought. By using species with distinct physiological characteristics we hope to get a good understanding of the underlying physiology that governs the balance between water dynamics and carbon uptake.

Equipment used to construct vulnerability curves of different Eucalyptus species.

Although research is underway, lockdown has shown that not everything will run smoothly. Due to travel restrictions, it has become challenging to acquire various equipment. Lockdown has forced us to be resourceful and look for alternative solutions. I have built a set-up to measure water flow through a stem using only material bought at our local hardware shop. The irrigation and plumbing sections at the hardware store have become our new favourite place to buy laboratory supplies.

Due to social distancing protocols, the number of people working in the laboratory has been limited. We have therefore, been forced to often work alone in the laboratory, which can become very lonely. The radio has become my new favourite lab partner and sometimes the soundtrack of a Disney movie can also be heard behind the laboratory door.

In the coming weeks, we hope to see the return of more students and researchers to campus. I am very grateful to be back in our laboratory and am looking forward to be joined by other members of the EucXylo team. Just remember to wear your mask!

The author working in the laboratory.


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