Research update: October/November 2015

Fall was a time of big changes out on the Chicago green roofs. From summer temperatures to snow and beautiful blooming flowers to brown, dried grass, the plants changed almost daily on the roofs. Now they’re pretty much dormant and ready to face another cold winter.

The last of the fall flowers bloom on the green roofs in early October.

The last of the fall flowers bloom on the green roofs in early October.

The last of the wildflowers and grasses bloom on the green roofs in Chicago

The last of the wildflowers and grasses bloom on the green roofs in Chicago

As in previous years, this season was also a transition for me from outdoor data collection to indoor writing and lab work. I finished collecting the last of the temperature probes and finished the “checkups” on the green roofs. I recorded the temperatures and packed the probes back into their small water-tight bags and wished them good luck until I dig them up again in the spring. I made sure that all signs and little sticks I use for marking my sites were in the right place. I recorded all final observations and closed my notebook… for now.

 

 

 

All the fruits that I collected are carefully weighed on an electronic balance in the lab

All the fruits that I collected are carefully weighed on an electronic balance in the lab

In the lab, I cleaned and weighed the fruits that I had collected from the green roof and ground-level plants in one of my experiments. I then opened the fruits and carefully counted each little seed that was contained inside. These seeds are very tiny and have to be counted under a microscope. After the seeds were counted, I rinsed them off in a weak bleach solution to kill any fungus and put them on these little agar plates. The agar is a substance with the same texture as Jello that is able to hold moisture that the seeds can use later when they start to grow. I sealed up these agar plates with the seeds and put them in a dark refrigerator where they’ll stay for at least a couple months. Later, I hope I’ll get these seeds to grow so I can take a closer look at their DNA and see if there is pollen moving between plants on the green roof and plants on the ground.

As the season changed, it was also time to work on more writing. Yes, it turns out that scientists write a lot! I am currently working on writing the results of the experiment I completed when I was in Germany 2 years ago. It has taken a long time to look at all the data I collected very carefully. After some long days in the library reading, writing, reading, and writing some more, I am beginning to explain some of the patterns that I see in my data. This is a long process and I still have more writing to do this winter but I hope that soon I’ll be able to publish these results and share them with my fellow botanists and other scientists that are also interested in the ecology of green roofs.

I spend long hours in the library reading and writing about the results of my experiments.

I spend long hours in the library reading and writing about the results of my experiments.

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