Loving the little things in the scientific process

Some (many) times in science, experiments move slowly. You have to wait for your organisms to grow. You have to collect a year’s worth of data before it’s useful to analyze. I’ve told my students over and over this summer that they have to learn to be excited by small victories, or the vacuum of having no achievable short-term goals will asphyxiate their will to go on.

So we love the little things, like multicolored labeling tape and completing a new protocol successfully and a breezy day in the field.

They look like space meals.
They look like space meals.

That in mind, here are some of this week’s celebrations:

After an extensive permitting and application process, we’ve received 50 new mustard accessions from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the United Kingdom! (Shout-out to Janet Terry, the seed curator, for putting up with my complete lack of knowledge on how to import seeds.) We’re still waiting on another 50, but they should be coming soon. At that point, it will be back to the cycle of planting seeds, praying to quantum probabilities for high germination rates, and panicking when there are more plants than we know what to do with.

Caulanthus flavescens
Caulanthus flavescens

The annuals that were sown in early June are starting to flower. They’re pretty, but also a reminder that organisms move inexorably forward through their life histories towards reproduction and death, and we have to collect as much data as we can while we can. In a sense, this is good–it’s another way we can remind ourselves of our larger goals, and that there is an end, even if it isn’t always in sight.

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