The Start of a New Adventure: Expect the Unexpected

Let’s get real for a second. The first day at a new job or internship is always the weirdest. You have no clue where to go when you get there, you don’t know where anything is, everyone introduces themselves and you forget their name like 5 seconds later. It’s all a little overwhelming but I feel like no matter how old you are or how much experience you have it’s always that way. My first day at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center was no exception. In fact my entire first week was honestly a little crazy, but in a good way.

My first day started out pretty normal, reading some articles, figuring out how the lab sort of works but then I got to out and do some field work! On my first day! I was a little nervous because I’d never done anything like that before and I had no idea what to expect. We ( Joey, Cody and I) ended up going to one of the vineyards that we have an experiment going on at (in partnership with the Pathology lab at SOREC), it’s right down the road and it’s called Grestoni. We were just there to look at Stem Water Potential, which is an indicator of how stressed a plant is. With the results we can sort of decide whether the plant needs more or less water, and thus influences how long we irrigate for.

View of Ashland at Belle Fiore site.

On my second day Cody and I went out to another one of the vineyards called Belle Fiore in Ashland, where we sort of have two simultaneous experiments going on at the same time.

As part of one experiment we are looking at the effects of thinning on grapevines, along with irrigation and rootstock variances (thinning is when you remove clusters at berry set). For this experiment three vines were selected in each row to be thinned, along with the selected vine we thinned the vine on either side so that it doesn’t affect the selected vine. When thinning we removed all the clusters of berries except the basal cluster on each shoot. All of this talk about shoots and clusters and which one is the basal one was a little confusing at first, and since I like to visualize things I took some pictures that should make it easier to understand.

Vines in a row at Grestoni
Vine anatomy







Leaf anatomy

Also at Belle Fiore for both experiments we took some leaf samples which we sent off to get a nutrient assessment. For those samples we collected four basal leaves from three or six preselected vines (depending on the experiment). When we got back to the lab we separated the petioles from the leaf blades before sending them to get analyzed. 

On Thursday and Friday we had to do some more sampling at Grestoni, this time so that we can perform DNA extractions. For this sampling we took four leaves (two basal leaves from each side of the vine) from every tenth vine.


Vineyard rows at Grestoni site.

Cody had a great analogy for what it feels like to be sampling in these giant vineyards. It’s like in the fourth Harry Potter Movie (the Goblet of Fire) when they are at the maze and they all start out together but then one by one they all enter the maze, and when you enter it’s just so quiet and lonely. That perfectly describes sampling at a vineyard.

Lab bench at Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center.

After we got the samples we went back to the lab to help start the next process. For this we took the leaves from each sample, separated the petioles and leaf blades, and chopped the petioles up into tiny little slices (this sort of made me feel like I was a giant cutting up little pieces of celery).  Then we measured out 1 mg of petiole slices in a tiny tube with a small metal ball, this is so the petiole can be ground up so that we can perform DNA extractions.

Overall it was an exciting first week. I learned a lot and I got to see some amazing new places. I’ve also realized that this summer is gonna be a lot more crazy than I originally thought.

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