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From the Field: Summer Field Work with Laura van der Pol

From the Field is an EcoPress series where we highlight the field work our scientists and graduate students are doing in blog posts, feature stories and on social media. This is the third blog post of the ongoing series.

Laura van der Pol is a 4th year PhD student in the the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology (GDPE), the Soil and Crop Sciences Department (SOCR) and the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory (NREL) under Dr. Francesca Cotrufo.

Laura van der Pol (right) and NREL/SOCR graduate student Rebecca Even (left) at The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas.

Her research encompasses soil ecology, agroecosystems and the study of soil organic matter. This summer she spent time doing field work at The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. We asked Laura to give us some highlights from her field work season:

Q1: Describe your field work in a few sentences? 

A: This was the conclusion of a 2.5 year incubation of isotopically labelled root and shoot litter to help us understand how litter chemistry and management system affect soil organic matter formation and dynamics. We collected the final set of soil collars from the field — the final samples I’ll collect for my PhD!

Rebecca Even collecting soil samples.

Q2: What is your favorite part about your field work?

A: I love the early mornings when we can see the sun rising on the field (and before it becomes painfully intense). I also love how quickly the sky changes in Kansas — it’s always a surprise. In the fields where we collect our samples, there’s also so many kinds of arthropods — I love seeing the countless ways they burrow and live.

Landscape shot from the Land Institute in Salida, Kansas.

Q3: Any crazy/fun field work stories so far?

A: Nothing too crazy except the weather was so much better than expected for once. Can’t say that happens often!

Q4: Fun summer plans outside of field work/work?

A: Replacing carpet with hard floors is fun, yes?

Thank you for sharing your summer with us, Laura!