Okay so… I haven’t exactly been going to the nice gym on IRRI’s campus like I had high hopes of at the beginning of the trip. All puns aside, however, this week I have become more immersed in rice research… and even rice farming!
At the beginning of the week, new scholars at IRRI participated in an all day orientation, visiting places like the rice museum, gene bank, and seed health unit. In the museum we got to see farming tools used by cultures all across South Asia for centuries. In the gene bank, we peering down rows of seals bags housing over 120,000 rice variety accessions in a cold storage room. We learned how rice grains are treated for pests before being sent to new countries in seed health. Nothing compared in terms of hands on education to field work in the morning, however. A few minutes after pulling up to the field, I found myself barefoot, several inches deep in a warm mud/weed/frog soup, and totally out of my element. I tilled soil to prepare the flooded land using not only modern gas-powered machines, but also one pulled by a carabao– the original motor. The group also hand transplanted rice seedlings into an already prepared field. After this tedious activity, they wheeled out the automated transplanter, drastically reducing the effort and time required by hand. I gained a new appreciation for rice farmers that morning, along with a new appreciation for technology.
I am grateful for those who patiently guided us. It has been a common theme on this trip to encounter locals and even other international visitors who welcome and assist me with open arms. Their friendliness has helped me feel closer to home in a very far away land.
In lab I have continued running PCR and gel electrophoresis, pictured below. Later, I will be transplanting selected rice seedlings based on these results, but this time in a glasshouse setting. Recently, I have also begun grinding leaf samples in liquid nitrogen for use in DNA extraction and Southern Blot. Not picture below are the calluses beginning to form on my thumbs from opening and closing hundreds of tiny reaction tubes over and over, or the sensation of liquid nitrogen’s -321 degree Fahrenheit-bite through my gloves.
On a side note, I tried a black variety of rice tonight for dinner. I also (accidentally) ate “queso” cheese ice cream, thinking the orange color of the wrapped cone was mango. I can’t say either was bad though. Take home: don’t be afraid to try something unconventional. Reading labels wouldn’t hurt, either.