Science-ing on Rooftops: Lessons from the Field (Part 4)

Hi! Did you miss me? I missed you!

I know I promised I’d come back months ago, but apparently my life had a different plan for me and everything just got waaaay too busy. You’ll forgive me, right? 😦

So, this blog post is going to be split into two (three?) parts. If you want to get an update on my life (complete with pictures) and know what I’m thinking about the future of this blog, just keep on reading. I even put subtitles for your convenience! However, if you want to just skip to my attempt to make fun of my field experience, you can skip to my fourth edition of Lessons from the Field by clicking here. And if you want to see the previous three posts from this series or anything else about my research, you can check that out here. Continue reading


Looking on the Brighter Side: Lessons from the Field (Part 3)

I was thinking about just skipping this week’s blog post because I’ve been in the sourest mood this week. Many things have gone wrong and it seems that every day there’s been a new problem. As such, my first attempt to write this post became a whiny, complaining mess which in my opinion was not very fun to read, and I feared that I would deter some younger readers from the idea of field work. Because, yes, field work is messy and complicated. When things go wrong, they really go wrong and require a lot of tireless improvisation. But field work is also an exciting and rewarding experience. I would have never learned as much as I have these past few weeks by simply staying in a lab all summer. I’ve met so many cool people, learned plenty of lessons from the field campaign veterans and got not only a really unique and hands-on experience in the field of instrument development, but also a crash course on the awesome science we’re studying here at the PROPHET site.

And besides, important lessons seem to arise from difficult times. So here is the third installment of my Lessons from the Field series! This time, hopefully, with a more positive twist. Continue reading

Becoming MacGyver: Lessons from the Field (Part 2)

The field is tough. This whole blog post could probably be summarized by that one sentence. In fact, I might as well stop here. But I won’t. Because I’m mostly stress writing at this point. But anyway, if you haven’t done field work, take my word for it, while it can be a very rewarding adventure, it can also be a giant pain in the ass. (Or, in my case, both at the same time!)

Somehow I’ve managed to survive until now. We’ve reached the half way point of the field campaign and we have some preliminary data, I suppose. But, we also came out here with a brand new, never tested, homemade instrument (designed and built within a year, might I add). Therefore, even when all this is over, there is still tons of work to be done in order to characterize the data, figure out our sensitivity to certain species and, well, figure out what the data we managed to get really means. Nevertheless, I guess by anyone’s standards, we’re actually doing pretty good. After all, at least half of our instrument is working (!!), but I digress. Continue reading

Sciencing across the US (Lessons from the Field)

…Sorry, I just really wanted to use that title.

Anyway! Hello my Internet friends! I come to you from the land called Michigan while doing some field work with my research lab. I can tell you it’s been quite an adventure for several reasons (which I have conveniently listed in bullet points).

  • For one, this is my first official field experience as a grad student…so just about everything could be considered an adventure at this point.
  • Second, this field experience required me to drive from Pasadena, CA to Pellston, MI in an 18 foot truck…which considering I’ve never driven anything more than a small car… well… it was interesting to say the least.
  • Third, this is the very first time our instrument has ever been out in the field and considering we only had it working three days before we left… well, let’s just say that the troubleshooting might have to be a bit more creative than usual…
  • And fourth, not only did said brand new (and stupidly expensive) instrument had to survive both a 3.5 day road trip on the back of a truck driven by two inexperienced truck drivers, but it also had to be carefully hoisted 100+ feet up in the air by some rope and a simple pulley system in order to be placed in its current position on the research tower…

Let me say again…it’s been quite an adventure. Continue reading

Plants and Their Role in the Atmosphere

I finally did it! Here is another science post discussing the role of plant emissions (specifically isoprene) have on our air quality and climate. Admittedly, this is a very brief summary, as isoprene chemistry is currently a hot research topic and there were simply too many avenues to discuss on a simple introductory post. However, I still hope you enjoy this intermission post as I prepare to head off to Michigan for my research trip. Again, my presence on the interwebs, especially this week, will be kind of spotty. Nevertheless, if you have any related questions, I will be very happy to answer them once I have internet! Enjoy!

biopact_isoprene_photosynthesisTypically, when the atmosphere is mentioned, it’s usually in the context of air quality and/or climate change. The former tends to focus on the emissions and subsequent transformations of air pollution that may be hazardous to human health. The latter, on the other hand, focuses on how greenhouse gases and atmospheric aerosols affect the radiative forcing of our planet. However, regardless of which one is being referring to, both are influenced by a complex interplay of an assortment of reactive compounds found within our atmosphere. Continue reading

Ammonia Pollution: Validation of Space-Based Emission Profiles

This week, I present to you a “News and Views” type science article that I had to write for a class last quarter! Depending on the popularity of this post (as well as my own time constraints) I would like to start writing more of these types of blog posts, particularly for areas more closely related to my specific research goals. Let me know if this is something you’re interested in!

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient that plants need to grow, but in the environment it mostly takes the form of unreactive N2 gas. It is only through the invention of the Haber-Bosch processes that N2 can be transformed into large quantities of reactive nitrogen species that can be utilized to increase crop production to levels that can sustain our world’s population. Of these manufactured forms of nitrogen, ammonia (NH3) dominates, accounting for 55% of man-made emissions with its main source being agricultural operations1. Due to our need to increase food production, ammonia emissions have more than doubled since preindustrial times and are predicted to continue increasing in the future2. Continue reading