Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Another Week in the Garden City

At first time seemed to be moving so slowly here, but everyday it goes by faster and faster and somehow just over two weeks of my five week journey have whiz zed  past. My second week in Bangalore was again spent in the lab, this time extracting DNA from dung samples collected in the field. This sounds like a simple process, just picking through some poo and placing it in vials. However, it's a very tedious and expensive process that takes almost an entire day of work! In addition to purifying DNA to be used in later analysis, I also helped Dr. sukumar's lab begin compiling a database of the flora found inn the Kodagu district where many of his students do their elephant research. The project is long term, it's intention being to better understand what plants elephants eat specifically. Chloroplast DNA sequences for hundreds of plants must be catalogue s to compare against sequences found in collected dung. Before coming here, I never could have imagined how much time and work goes into providing data on something that seems so simple as an elephants diet. A fact  you would read on Wikipedia and think 'hmm, that's interesting' and read on without honking further of how that statistic was researched and proven, not thinking about the months spent tracking and collecting and analyzing by ecologists. I've truly realized how unaware I and so many others are of the environment that is all around us' and the passion and effort that ecologists put forth in studying such particular yet vast aspects of wildlife. 

My appreciation  and admiration for the CES faculty and students grew even more when they held a farewell celebration for one of the women who founded the department nearly 30 years ago. Even though I have only met these people in the past week, I couldn't help but get choked up as they shared stories of the years passed together and the birth and growth of CES' amazing research community. I am so lucky to have been able to  work  and speak with so many intelligent and driven individuals who so passionately pursue their ecological work. 

After a long week in lab, the weekend was again spent strolling through Bangalore, visiting beautiful temples, markets and land marks. Even though the city is noisy, crowded, dusty and chaotic, there are so many little parks and gardens and temples where peace and quiet can be found and savored. Some of my new friends at IISc treated me to a traditional North Karnataka meal, eaten off a banana leaf with endless refills on any dish. It was so delicious, and I've become an expert at scooping up rice in my hands. Not being able to dig into every mescal only using my hands and bread to eat will be quite an adjustment when I return to the states! 

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