Tuesday, August 31, 2010

catching up

i've put off this blog post for long enough!

i arrived in oak ridge the saturday before last. it was foggy and hilly at six in the morning and my sleep-deprived mind thought it was the most hilarious thing ever. i literally could not stop laughing. this was after some mishaps with time zones and a rest stop.

when i got to rolling hills apartments, i called up lori. she's the program director and the most extraordinary ray of sunshine you'll ever meet. i also met my two roommates, lin and laura, shortly thereafter.

i spent the rest of the weekend passed out on my bed. and i occasionally ran. and ate.

monday arrived and everyone from the program (all eleven of us) met up to go to the lab and get our badges.

now, i knew pretty much nothing about oak ridge national laboratory before i got here. the place is fucking gigantic. they employ 3,000 people and usually have about as many "visitors". they have their own taxi service. and gym. and three (or maybe four?) dining facilities (that i know of).

also, because it's the government, there's an excess of both acronyms and required training protocols. it's probably one of the safest places you could ever work at. they're pretty paranoid about dangerous things happening because this was the lab where lots of work on nuclear bombs was done. you have to do training just to go anywhere outside of the visitor center.

to skip some more mundane details, i love my mentor and the research i'm working on. mark is the shit. he's super chill and likes to tell random stories. in terms of research, i spent most of last week reading and familiarizing myself with past literature. i'm picking up on some work that was done by another undergrad named julie this summer, so i also looked through her notes (which are much lighter on relevant details and quite heavy on measurements that i don't really need).

basically, mark and glenn (another aquatic ecologist) are focusing on the effects of new hydrokinetic devices on fish. these devices are smaller than a dam and take advantage of the water power produced by rivers and oceans. unfortunately, we have very little understanding of how these devices will effect individual organisms, food web structures, abiotic features, etc.

that's where i come in! the work i'm starting with is to test the effects of magnetic fields on invert and fish behavior. the hydrokinetic devices will produce electromagnetic fields, which have both an electric field and a magnetic field. the electric field can be contained by insulation, but the magnetic field can't and therefore could seriously fuck with animals that can perceive magnetic fields. so i'm putting magnetics under tanks full of certain critters and seeing if they affect distribution.

actually, i get to begin my first run-through tomorrow. i'm using a permanent magnet (which produces direct current, or DC, magnetic fields) on some snails from a creek behind the lab. this is basically a replicate of what julie has already done.

there are some kinks to be worked out. we need to look at the effects of AC fields. unfortunately, the electromagnet we're using to produce AC overheats enough to melt and crack its casing and kills fuses.

enough about research or this will be the longest post ever. tennessee is incredible. there's so much to do outside here, tons of hiking, whitewater rafting and camping. this last sunday, we went caving with one of the guys lin works with, which was a fabulous experience! apparently, tennessee is the state with the most caves. great smoky national park, the most visited park, is about an hour away.

we're also really close to knoxville, which has tons of shopping and good restaurants and live entertainment. on friday some of us went to knoxville to check out a free jazz thing. it ended up being a bust, but we wandered around and one of us found a blues band playing in some random bar and grill.

my eyes are starting to glaze over. there's so much more that has happened. turtle trapping, hey cow, calculus classes, morning car rides. i'll just pretend i'm being mysterious by not expanding on any of them though, ha!

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