Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Science to scientists

That dream about showing up for finals after having skipped class the whole semester? Well, it's baaaaack!

This is a great gig, a scam, actually. The National Science Foundation gives money to the Marine Biological Laboratory. The MBL skims its share and then pays my way to come to the Arctic Circle to stroll among the wilderness.

The catch: I have to do science. And math. While others watch.

In the end, I worked with colleagues mimicking the research and experiments being carried out on the tundra. In my case, it was a look rates of photosynthesis and carbon dioxide flux on tundra -- some that had been fertilized and some that had been left to its own devices.

The work plays off the effects of climate change. With warmer temperatures, more nutrients likely are released into the soil, perhaps spurring more plant growth. It quickly gets into biology courses that I barely passed in high school and avoided altogether in college, and into math that sends a tiny reporter brain into seizures.

After days of pouring over Excel spreadsheets, converting them into graphics, plotting logarithmic lines and transferring all the jumble into a PowerPoint presentation, there I stood presenting my "findings" to scientists.

It's good I was filthy from camp life. That way the pit stains weren't so obvious. For 10 minutes I clicked on the PowerPoint slides. On the bright side, there were only two times -- the truth -- when I looked at what I'd prepared and had no idea what it meant.

The scientists were gentle, but it was ugly nonetheless.

1 comment:

Kentucky Bob said...

These remedial classes are just what you needed, straw man. No more politics and religion and girl scout jokes: when you return we can drink some Kansas Red and ponder the effect of temperature on diffusive mass transport of CO2 across the cell wall during the cyclic phosphorylation step of anoxygenic photosynthesis.