My three weeks were spent in the
Palynology lab at the USDA/ARS labs in College Station Texas. The
scientists I primarily worked with were Dr. Gretchen Jones and Dr.
Juan Lopez. There were several research assistants also working
in the lab.
Upon arriving to the lab, I was introduced
to everyone. I met with each of the scientists and learned about
how they contribute to the research.
thing I was truly amazed about was the science of palynology (study
of pollen). Did you know that pollen grains are practically indestructible.
They can be used to find out where an object, person, animal, or
insect has been and what it ate. We went out in the fields and collected
boll weevils, processed them by crushing them, used various chemicals
to remove the guts while leaving the pollen in the solution, and
making microscope slides of the pollen in suspension. The slides
were then viewed and the pollen grains counted and photographed
for identification. Some of these pollen pictures are shown to the
In the case of the moths, the proboscis
were split and mounted to be photographed by a scanning electron
microscope to identify pollen present on them. Their guts can/are
also processed. By looking at this information, one can determine
where these insects are coming from, what plants they feed on, and
other feeding patterns. This can help scientists develop a plan
to keep these insects from attacking the crop in an efficient and
After considering what can be replicated
in the classroom, I chose to do my unit on the Corn Earworm. I was
taken out into the fields to see first hand what these critters
do to a corn crop. I was shown how the scientists raise these insects.
The idea is to find out what attracts the adult moths and try to
duplicate this scent or pheromone, include a toxin in it, and apply
it to prevent the moths from laying their eggs in the corn crop.