Monday, May 23, 2011

The first one!

Hello! This is my first blog post ever, so I hope it is ok. I guess I’ll introduce myself. I’m Evie, a PhD student at Indiana University. I am studying disease ecology, specifically tick-borne disease and what makes some hosts carry more ticks or tick-borne pathogens than others. I am interested in how many community properties influence this, such as vector-host interactions, bacterial co-infection and microbial interactions, intra- and inter host population and community differences, and individual physiology, such as immune function. A lot of things to tie together, but I’m working on it! This is the summer of my 4th year, so more than half-way done but still a lot of work to do.

I wanted to start this blog because I think field work is a special, cool, exciting experience that I’d like to share, but also because during the field work, or for that matter lab work or writing as well, there are a lot of things I think about that I’d like a depository for. I hope this can turn in to a fun place to share stories about being a graduate student, ecologist, scientist, and person who is trying to carve out her niche.

My field work started about two weeks ago. (Oh, when I’m not in the field I do a lot of different things in the lab, but I’ll cross that bridge when the season is over.) My field research involved live-trapping small mammals, mainly white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) and prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster). I take ticks, fleas, and any other ectoparasites off them, take a blood sample, give them an ear tag and release them where they were captured. These samples are processed later for co-infection in the ticks and mammals. The blood serum is also used in immune assays. So, collect all the samples in the course of 2-3 months when the ticks are active, spend the rest of the year processing the samples, analyzing data, and writing papers.

 Pine vole (Microtus pinetorum) that we caught during the 2009 field season.
White-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) that I caught a couple weeks ago. See if you can see the ticks covering its ears.

We do this sampling in southern Indiana at sites that are about 15 miles south of Bloomington. This is kind of nice because we don’t have to spend lots of money traveling to faraway places to do our research. Makes things cheaper and easier, logistically. I do get a bit jealous of friends who do get to go to awesome places over the summer to do their field work, like the rainforest or national parks, but oh well. I have become quite fond of rural Indiana and am happy to be doing what I’m doing. It can seem like exciting things only happen not where you are, in places that seem more exotic or exciting, but in most cases it seems like the same patterns happen everywhere and you may be missing part of the big picture by not exploring them in your backyard. 

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