May 29, 2014

Writing Up

Well it's been quite a while since I created an entry on my blog, for one simple reason....I need to submit by September! So I have been mainly sorting and analysing data, finishing trials and manically writing. I think it's all under control, although I am on holiday for two weeks at the end of June which whilst I am looking forward to a break, is making me stress a bit about getting a large portion of my thesis drafted before then. You may not hear from me for some time, but as my last entry was October last year, that's really no different to usual!

October 04, 2013

Norway Visiting

So my supervisor and I are lucky enough to be involved with a project with some researchers in Norway at Bioforsk, so in September we we able to go to Norway, meet with the researcher and her technicians and see some sclerotinia disease in lettuce fields. What an absolutely gorgeous country Norway is - it's a shame I couldn't extend my visit as I am too busy at the moment, but it was a treat to fly from Stavanger to Oslo and see the fjords from the airplane. I definitely recommend a visit if you ever get the chance!

Sclerotinia on lettuce in NorwayMonument in StavangerThe old town in Stavanger

September 17, 2013

HDC PhD studentship conference

I attended the annual HDC studentship conference last week, enjoying some amazing visits to growers on Monday, followed by presenting a summary of my work and a poster on Tuesday. An excellent couple of days showing the range of research being done by HDC funded students and post-docs, as well as educating us about mushroom growing, tomato growing and anaerobic digestion units. To top it off I won the poster prize, which I certainly wasn't expecting!

It was really good to catch up with all the other PhD students, and my talk was well received so hopefully I am on the right track. An added bonus for me was that the presentations were held at Pershore College where I did my degree in horticulture, so a couple of my tutors from Pershore were able to attend and hear my talk.

April 11, 2013

Trial repeats….and repeats….and repeats…

So it has been a while since I had a chance to update my blog, mainly because I have been setting up numerous repeats of trials which is required to ensure the results are replicated. The soil box trials and in vitro trials I have been doing are thankfully quite quick to set up,but run for a long time (150 days for each soil box trial) so it's important I get repeats in asap!

in vitro petri dish with germinated sclerotiaSoil box trials in controlled environment room

In March I presented a poster at the 2013 Life Sciences PhD symposium, and enjoyed the vast range of talks which showed how diverse the areas of research are in the school. There has been some more moving around of offices, but I am definitely not complaining as I now have a much bigger desk!

I have spent some time this week planning my last 18 months, which looks to be pretty busy. It seems I am on track and should have some nice data for my thesis, or at least that is the plan! Anyhow, lots to be getting on with, including a field trial

November 22, 2012

Presentations & lab moves

So yesterday I presented at the RHS PhD Student Symposium at RHS Wisley, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it! It was only my second presentation at an external event, but I can honestly say I am starting to enjoy this presenting malarky! It did help that it was a very supportive group of students and scientists, who asked some very interesting questions at the end of each of the nine student talks. The plenary lecture given by Dr Ken Thompson was an informative and humorous look at communicating science, with plenty examples of how it can go wrong!

Now it's back into the lab and having a bit of a sort out before we move into our new lab next month. This will be the final home of the Warwick Crop Centre, and it will be nice to get settled in before Christmas, even if it will mean a lot of sorting out before then. Hopefully it will all go smoothly, and then we just have the Sclerotinia culture collection to sort out - only about 600-700 isolates or so........

October 03, 2012

Second Year

So here I am at the start of my second year as a PhD student. It feels like it has gone quickly in some ways, yet feels like I have been doing it forever in others!

Some of the plans for my second year are:

1. Develop an HPLC test to assess the levels of glucosinolates and resulting isothiocyanates in the crops I am using in my trials.

2. Continue with soil box biofumigation trials using dried plant material instead of fresh.

3. Set up in vitro trials to assess biofumigation effects on mycelial growth of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum.

4. Test biofumigants against other isolates of S. sclerotiorum.

5. Carry out DNA extractions on sclerotia samples collected from Scotland so I can then use PCR to see if I have managed to find any more isolates of S. subarctica.

Should keep me busy. I still can't believe I've done a whole year, roll on the next twelve months!

September 20, 2012

Warwick Crop Centre Open Day

So this morning it was time to tidy up after a very enjoyable afternoon yesterday spent talking to lots of visitors to the Warwick Crop Centre Open day. It's always great to talk to people about my research, particularly as some of them actually seem interested in what I am doing whereas friends and family are possibly getting a little bored of me going on about my research! There seemed to be a good variety of people at the open day, from growers to horticulture press, researchers to seed companies, all enjoying the sunny day and having a look at all the different work that goes on at Warwick Crop Centre and some of our extensive facilities. I may need to develop a way of remembering people's names a bit better, as I have no doubt that I will meet many of these people again in the course of my career.

August 22, 2012

Samples galore!

So when you ask for samples, apparently everyone, and I mean everyone is super keen to send you some! I seem to have gone from slightly worrying about getting enough samples from Scotland to having so many samples I will be spending many a happy hour in the lab to get through them all! I am not moaning though - as far as I am concerned at the moment the more the merrier to elevate the chance of me getting more isolates of Sclerotinia subarctica. Just a shame it looks exactly the same as Sclerotinia sclerotiorum in the field and the only way I can definitely know that it is S. subarctica is by extracting the DNA and running a PCR. Now DNA extractions seem to take me a loooooong time to do, but I have it on good authority (from a senior research technician who knows everything you really need to about plant pathology) that I am just slow. Ah well, I think I am going to get lots of practice at speeding up!

July 01, 2012

Sampling buttercups in Scotland

So last Monday and Tuesday I was in Scotland collecting buttercups from two wild flower meadows. This is to try and obtain some new isolates of Sclerotinia subarctica, a species related to Sclerotinia sclerotiorum which has recently been discovered in the UK. My supervisor, John, and I were very lucky with the weather in Scotland, and also saw lots of disease on the buttercups:

Buttercups 1 Buttercups 2  

We also saw lots of orchids, including rare greater butterfly orchids, and spotted orchids:

Orchid 1 Orchids 2

June 13, 2012

Reports and trials and tribulations

So my 9 month report on how my research is going is with my supervisor for review. Whilst I found the literature review hard going, due to there being a vast amount of papers to cover, I found assessing my own progress and planning what I am going to do in year 2 very helpful. It was good to take time to look back at my year 1 research plan, trying to be objective about what I have achieved and what I haven't achieved! It has also reminded me of the importance of writing early and often during a PhD, rather than allowing it to build up to the final year.

My various biofumigation trials are going well, with delayed germination still coming through in my original soil box trial which has been running since February. I have now got 4 of the soil box trials running, so assessing them is becoming a bit more time consuming. I have also been trying out some in vitro trials, with a view to setting up full scale trials in the next month or so. Dried biofumigation crops are placed in the lid of an upside down petri dish with a mycellium plug placed onto the agar. Water is then added to the dried crop and the petri dish is quickly sealed with parafilm. The crops inhibit mycelial growth:


My PhD: Pathogen diversity, epidemiology and control of Sclerotinia disease in vegetable crops

i. To determine the effect of organic soil amendments on the germination and survival of sclerotia of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum.
ii. To evaluate carrot varieties for susceptibility to Sclerotinia sclerotiorum and quantify production of sclerotia by different S. sclerotiorum genotypes.
iii. To investigate the diversity, epidemiology and control of Sclerotinia subarctica.

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