Monday, February 16, 2015

Tribulus sampling

One of the reasons I've stayed in the Galápagos for so long was to overlap with my labmate and friend, Sofia, who is working on a different perspective of the Darwin Finches: how the finches exert selection on plants. Namely, tribulus. If you are a finch, you have to have a certain size beak to be able to crack open a tribulus mericarp to get at the tasty seeds inside, and depending on how big your beak is, how you get at the tasty seeds depends on how big your beak is.

But what about the tribulus? If finches are happily munching on precious seeds the tribulus need to reproduce, how might tribulus be adapting and evolving to this selective pressure? Well, the cool thing is that's what we're about to explore! This year, collaborators, along with Sofia, arrived in the Galapagos to ask exactly this question.

Marc Johnson from U of Toronto arrived and we took him to El Garrapatero, where we knew that there (1) were tribulus and (2) finches were feeding on tribulus. It was a perfect field sampling day where we sampled many tribulus seeds and observed finches eating tribulus.

We even squeezed in a little bit of time at the beach to enjoy the wonders of Galápagos at the beach!

Perhaps most importantly, Ollie and Dolphin (don't know the name) made friends with my cat, and they seemed to be having a lovely time on the beach while helping my cat with a little bit of research.

Once back from a lovely time in the field, it was back to work. Several hundred tribulus seeds needed to be laid out, measured, and documented for an experiment, and this took the rest of the afternoon (and the part of the next day). Thankfully, all you need is time and beer to accomplish these kinds of tasks.
The start of organizing tribulus seeds
Done sorting! Sofia poses with the tribulus seeds she will soon start measuring.

Sofia well into measuring tribulus seeds.

Sofia prepping her tribulus samples
In fact, check out this video to get a real time perspective of what's going on!

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