Whew! Where did July go?
Now that the excitement of splitting the sediment core has passed, the last couple weeks have been a bit of a blur of intensive sample processing. I wrote in my introductory post that lab work can often be monotonous. To be perfectly honest, I can find the routine protocols soothing, especially with some NPR in my ear (I’ve been catching up on my favorite podcasts), but they definitely make for less interesting blog updates.
I’ve been doing all sorts of sample prep: freeze drying samples, extracting and separating compounds, and (for the first time) searching for radiocarbon-datable material. Radiocarbon dating is essential to any sediment core research that focuses on geologically recent samples, but finding a tiny leaf or shell in a vial full of freeze-dried mud is the research version of the classic needle-in-a-haystack challenge. It will be much more exciting to get back the date results, but unfortunately it’ll be a few weeks’ wait.
My first time extracting sediments, and not plants, did come with a few surprises. The first few extracts are so dark they’re almost black(!) but the top of the core (as expected) is much lower in the lipids we test for compared to plant samples. We expect to see a greater relative concentration of lipids as we dive deeper into the core, and further back in time. The next couple weeks will tell…