Setting an alarm for 5:30 am in July is not something a teacher often does. However an appointment with Aidan, a PhD member of the group (http://www.ucd.ie/plantpalaeo/holohan.html) at 7 am on the far side of the city was calling. On the two hour trip to the beautiful grounds of Johnstown Castle, Aidan explained the aim of our task for the day and it was clear the buzzword would be stomata. It had been made clear to us that this would be the case for the four weeks, and that anyone saying they did not work in stomatal research was in denial or hiding something.
When we first went into the glasshouses in the morning, the temperature was reading at a bubbling 32 degrees. We wondered how it would be at all possible to do anything in that heat, but thankfully our task was easy on the muscles. We were to collect leaf samples of four different plant species (grass, red clover, white clover, chicory) which had been planted in pots either as a monoculture or together as a community. These native species were then subjected to various levels of watering, up to drought. The idea behind examining the plants in this way is to discover any reaction they may have to a drought situation and similarly, if been surrounded by other species forces them to adapt better to their situation and find a niche. The leaves collected by myself and Louise are to be examined next week in the lab.
Both Aidan and Eamon, another member of the PhD family (http://www.ucd.ie/plantpalaeo/haughey.html), were extremely helpful in answering any questions we had on the topics, and also helping us find the castle tearoom which boasted its own set of peacocks wandering around for entertainment during breaktimes. After a tour of Eamons field plots we returned to the glasshouse to discover the temperature had reached an all time high for the day of 39 degrees. Not wanting to see what might happen to a pair of teachers exposed to those cruel conditions for longer than necessary, Aidan decided enough was enough and we hit the road, having well and truly earned ourselves an ice cream.