Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mission Complete: Division of Water Quality Sampling

Seasons Greetings Bloggers! With my first semester over and the holidays approaching quickly, I find myself finally gaining my "graduate-student" feet. Skills and knowledge have been gained ranging from organization to conducting field work to academic wisdom, all of which are ready to be applied to these upcoming three semesters. That being said, I recently got back with Audrey from sampling four wells in Union County, NC that belong to the Morgan Mill Division of Water Quality (DWQ) research station. Since Matt is in Bangladesh, it was up to me to make sure we had everything ready with the expert help of Audrey to keep me in check. It was a good way to get me thinking about what exactly it was we wanted to sample and how to go about doing and preparing for it.
The sampling was primarily for the sake of the DWQ researchers, Joju Abraham and Andrew Pitner, however they were generous enough to let us learn from them and collect our own samples from their site. Due to illness, Audrey was confined to the hotel room, leaving me in charge of sampling that day (Watch out!). The technique for sampling was pretty much the same as in Cambodia, so I had the experience of what to do, which made everything go smoothly. I enjoyed watching how the research station sampled their well water and was intrigued to learn that they collected for similar types of samples, such as metals, nutrients and organic carbon (though they looked for total and we look for dissolved). Their protocol in how to collect was also similar to ours, however their equipment was just much larger! Larger pumps, larger bottles, larger tubing, etc.
The conversations we had were quite enlightening. Both Joju and Andrew were genuinely interested in what we did as a lab and shared summaries of their own work. It was nice knowing that they were interested in seeing the data we would obtain from our own research later down the road and even from what we collected at their station. It reminds me that I am no longer just a student but also a fellow co-worker, which makes me even more eager for the research that is to come!
With great weather and company, the day of sampling was a wonderful experience and left me ready to sample some more! Thanks to Joju and Andrew for teaching me about North Carolina's geological and hydrogeological environment, for showing me their sampling techniques at DWQ, and overall great company!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mama Audrey's Animal Post

Since Liz posted earlier, she was not aware of the importance of an animal picture at the end of every post. Due to this, here is a whole post dedicated to the animals of Cambodia. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mama Audrey and the Go Girl

Liz Gillispie reporting here for the Polizzotto lab group!

With the patriarch of our lab no longer overseeing the work here in Cambodia, Audrey has been left in control and me as her humble grad servant, I mean student. Despite multiple pieces of equipment getting broken, excessive amounts of water being poured on the floors of the RDI lab, overuse of paper towels, and catching random lab workers clipping their finger nails with our nail clipper from the surface water kit, I'd say Audrey and I have things all under control.

Since all the well sampling and surface sampling has been completed, Audrey and I set out today to collect well water and rain water samples from various homes in the village on a main street that runs parallel to the Mekong.  It was the same road where we collected much of our well samples from before.  As Audrey and I collected the water, Dina, a local Khmi RDI member, talked with someone from each site to see how they used their water, how many people used it, whether they filtered/boiled it, and if anyone ever had stomach issues.  All went smoothly and now Audrey is hard at work preparing to test each sample for fecal bacteria (I'd give the specific names but I can't spell them let alone pronounce them!).

Our lab was able to find some entertainment throughout the sampling process, however, such as watching Audrey attempt to get out of the mud, performing titrations for large gatherings of interested locals, working around the ambitious children who were bold enough to not stop touching our equipment, playing with tree leaves, and from a competition of long jump made my our driver Pon.  We were exhausted by the end of the day and found ourselves completely ready for bed by 7:30 or 8:00 each night.

As our trip comes to end, I think we can all agree that we will truly miss the closeness of the families here and their generosity of welcoming us into their homes.  There was not a day where we weren't greeted with a big smile from Da's Aunt at the local coffee shop or waved at by little children to and from RDI (Da is another Khmi member of RDI).  Audrey and I were also blessed to have the chance to eat dinner with Da's family one night, which turned out to be a huge gathering (a typical evening dinner for them apparently).  I was able to sit next to Da's grandfather, Grandpa Da, which was completely the highlight of my trip.  That man is awesome.  But I digress.  The point is, family is important all around the world and you don't have to be related to be a part of one.  So thanks to all the wonderful people that made us feel at home during our stay here at RDI!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cambodia: Thick Thighs, Big Feet, Swollen Lips, and a (smelly) Rabbit

Hello from Cambodia, I hope all is well. Our first (almost) week is already over, so time is flying by. As soon as we landed, we found out that the old king passed away. Apparently he had been ill for some time, so this was not a huge surprise (and he was 90!). His son has been in power for a few years, so this was not the current king.

Since the king passed away, all of Cambodia went into mourning. This meant that the lab was closed on our first sampling day which put us a day behind. The past few days have been really hectic trying to catch up on lost time, but after some long days in the field and nights in the lab, we are now mostly done with all of the well sampling. Next week we will be surface water sampling and collecting water for fecal indicator bacteria.

The 'wet' season is not so wet this year and river and wetland water levels are much lower than last year.  Luckily the government has declared that the wet season will extend until December this year.  Thanks.

A few other things happened while away:

-Liz and Audrey's room was a nesting ground for a large spider and cockroach. Matt had to keep coming in to shoo them away, but they kept coming back. In the end, Audrey's dirty socks got placed in some of the holes in the ceiling to capture these creatures, but unfortunately they got out. Audrey's socks are still in the ceiling holes.
-Liz got a high five from a kid after Audrey got groped by one.
-Audrey accidentally ordered Milo (iced chocolate milk) instead of coffee one international incident almost occurred as Matt suffered through caffeine withdrawal
-There's not much space in the van due to all the thick thighs, big feet, swollen lips, and a (smelly) rabbit

(you know Audrey had to post her favorite animals of Cambodia. Shown here is a little dog named Pupsy)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The New Glovebox Is Here! The New Glovebox Is Here!

OK, we've actually had it for a while, but are just now getting around to writing a post. We had a glovebox custom made by the Precision Instrument Machine Shop on campus.  As you may be able to tell from the pictures below, this glovebox is a stainless steel monster.  It allows us to conduct a wide range of experiments under anaerobic conditions, and two transfer chambers can be used to bring samples and equipment in and out.

Some pictures during set up:

And the fully functioning beauty:

Friday, August 31, 2012

Arsenic in Turfgrass Systems

Arsenic is commonly added to turfgrass via pesticide and fertilizer applications. We are currently in our second year of field trials investigating arsenic mobility in turfgrass systems.

Here Audrey preps some porewater samplers and Ethan gets them installed.

The field site is set up to examine arsenic dynamics with and without turfgrass.

Matt J. gets the experiments initiated.

At select times, we'll sample porewater, and then begin analyses in our makeshift lab in the research station shed.

We also collect soil samples to measure arsenic profiles.

Then it's back to NC State for analysis!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Last Work Day

Can you believe tomorrow's the final work day? We have a few other things to do on Tuesday, but we fly out on Wednesday night. We are definitely not looking forward to the long flights back!

Sarah and I have had a little time off on Saturday and Sunday to sightsee a bit. Some friends of ours opened a restaurant in December and we had dinner there last night (boy was it a feast!).

Random pictures ahead....

 Monks walking at the National Museum in Phnom Penh

 Fish Amok, the national dish, from FCC

 One of the many rain barrels we collected water from for water testing

 Most of these water sources tested positive for fecal contamination (as seen from the yellow color)

 Sarah and Dina are sampling from the wetlands

 Our mobile lab (a.k.a Pon's van) testing in a rice field....don't try this at home

 A Buddist temple located in the Buddist Meditation Center

 Sarah with the Cambodian flag. Isn't it beautiful?

We went and got our nails and toes done at the local beauty salon. It was only $2!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

One Week to Go

Hi everyone, I hope all is well in your neck of the woods. I'm just giving a little report about how things are going so far. I can't believe we only have 1 week to go! Since it is near the end of the dry season, we experienced a few shallow wells that were dry. These wells were ones that are for science only, not for drinking, so this did not have any effect on the Cambodian people. It has been surprisingly wet here so far, but we did have 2 days that have been completely dry.

Tomorrow we will start sampling surface waters which will take a couple days and take us from the Bassac to the great Mekong River.

That's about it here in Cambodia. I hope to have a post up soon about our half day off in Phnom Penh on Sunday.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The (Mis)Adventures in Cambodia

Hi everyone! Sorry for the lack of posts, but we've been busy here in Cambodia. Things got off to a rocky start when the airline lost one of our coolers, but fortunately it arrived yesterday. Oh, I should mention that Sarah Seehaver from the Grossman lab is helping me here in Cambodia. She has a ton of field work under her belt, so we thought she would make a great addition to the trip (and boy has she!).

We expected it to be toward the end of the dry season here, but it seems that the wet season has started early. It's rained every day except for one, but luckily we got to the field early that day so we got a lot done. Last night it poured heavily most of the evening, but it is mostly dry now because of the hot weather. We also went to a very nice restaurant called Laprevu which had a great atmosphere and even a pool! We met a friend from RDI at the restaurant, and he beat us home on a bike while we took a tuk-tuk ride. How pathetic when a bike can beat a moto.

Yesterday was also spent starting nutrient bioassays looking at potential eutrophication of surface waters from increasing concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus. Let's just say it took much longer than anticipated, and it was a pretty stressful day. Here are a few random pictures I have to show you guys:

 Even Cambodia has Red Bull

 Dina is working hard well sampling

 Well sampling

 Using the Hanna to test rice paddy water

 Yup, they still plow with cow

 My favorite Cambodian dog had puppies again!

This crab was trying to pinch us while well sampling