Nolan is getting some solid research experience

Posted: July 22, 2015

In his first research experience, Nolan is finding himself doing things he never considered relevant
Nolan setting up some sentinel prey

Nolan setting up some sentinel prey

As a rising junior with limited research experience, I was unsure what to expect upon starting my work at this small laboratory situated amongst the farm fields in the shadows of Beaver Stadium. Although I am a student in the College of Agricultural Sciences I have not had any formal training in entomology and only a basic understanding of plant biology. Upon my arrival at the lab I began to get to know the lovably awkward and extremely intelligent folks that work in Merkle Lab.  I have met researchers from all different walks of life and a few corners of the globe. While the students and postdocs at the lab are as diverse as the places they called home, they were all drawn together by their interest in research and scientific exploration.

One of the most involved and most challenging tasks I took on during my time at the lab was working with postdoc Eric Yip counting damaged leaves on goldenrod plants. Each Friday morning we departed for the goldenrod fields, which were located near Boalsburg on the property of a PSU professor. To gather data, Eric and I waded into the sea of goldenrod plants and searched out the specific groups of plants we had tagged. We would then squat down among the plants to count the leaves on each of the marked plants and recorded any leaf damage that insects had caused occurred. This simple task was made much more difficult by the 95-degree temperatures and hordes of mosquitos that seemed to have personal vendettas against us. After weeks of this ritual, I had counted thousands of leaves on hundreds of plants. Although this work was challenging, it gave me first-hand experience into the hard work that goes into research that the scientific community produces. This assignment was as monotonous as it was physically taxing, however it gave me the opportunity to partake in actual scientific research, and for that I am thankful. Furthermore, through this experience I gained a tremendous respect for the work that research like Eric do to collect their data.

-Nolan Morris