Post by Evan Plumridge
On Day 2, we moved onto the lower section of Ampatuni. After a day of learning and getting to know the equipment, starting day 2 was much more systematic and organized. Four methane chambers were set into the ground and as they waited to calibrate, I set off to collect my own samples as part of my own research.
During the Spring semester, I was awarded the Erickson Discovery Grant offered through Penn State. This allowed me to answer my own questions that I had about the Andean bofedales. I questioned whether or not the melt water from the receding glaciers affected the quality of the bofedale and impacted the resources that the local people lived off of. Specifically, if heavy metals were being deposited in the bofedale affecting the water quality, soil composition, and plant tissues of the native grasses.
So by day 2, I had my routine down. After slowly creeping our way down the mountain into the valley, and several breaks later, I felt confident in how I was taking my samples and was prepared to take on the four different sites at Ampatuni Low. As Andrew, the graduate student who came along to aid the class, and I started to work, it felt surreal. We were in Peru, collecting samples for my OWN research. Something that students dream of. On multiple occasions I found myself just looking in front of me, my backpack filled with plant-filled Ziploc bags, Andrew and I both out of breath as we collected samples, and I realized how lucky I was.
Once I finished my four sites, I carried my 4 water vials, 8 plant sample bags, and 4 soil bags over to the rest of the group at their methane chambers. Not that there was ever a competition, or that I was keeping track but when I found out I finished my work before theirs ended, I was very relieved because the day before, everyone was almost waiting for me as they were eating their lunch.
Day 2 was a complete success on all fronts and it was such a rewarding experience to say I led my own research in such a beautiful, private place.