July 14, 2012 Student Research – Ludda Ludwig of St. Olaf College
The university students of the Polaris Project each work on independent research. Periodically, I will share the stories of these remarkable young people.
Ludda Ludwig – St. Olaf College
This afternoon, Ludda and I walked out to the experimental burn plots to take measurements for her research project. These are the same experimental burn plots created by Dr. Heather Alexander for her research. As such, plots have undergone various severities of burns – low, medium, and high. Ludda’s research is looking at the rate that the microbes in the soil respond after these different types of burns by looking at enzyme activity in the soil.
At each burn plot, Ludda collects a 5 cm by 5 cm soil core with a soil saw.
Then, Ludda sorts the core into its organic and mineral soil constituents.
Then, Ludda measures and records the depth of the green and brown moss layers, the fibric and humic and mineral soil layers, and, last, the thaw depth of the active layer. It takes persistence to make each of these measurements at each of the 16 burn plots, returning several times to each plot at intervals during our stay here. As I recorded her data for her in her extremely organized field notebook, I was impressed by the efficient and professional manner in which she worked.
When the field work ends, her work is just starting…
After returning from the field with her organic and mineral soil samples for our 2:00 p.m. lunch, Ludda headed straight to the lab to process her samples into the form required for enzyme analyses. She will work there well into the night and tomorrow to process today’s samples.
Ludda is a vibrant student whose passions for rugby and canoeing become obvious as you talk with her. She is also the first quadruple major I have ever met. She will graduate next spring with majors in Math, Chemistry, Biology, and Environmental Science from St. Olaf College.
Stay curious my friends! - Mark Paricio
Don’t forget, you can follow the blogs of the students on the Polaris Project with me at: http://www.thepolarisproject.org.