What I do in the entomology lab
This week has been all about learning insect-identification with experts in the entomology lab here at IRRI. Who would have have known that it is possible to indulge oneself in learning and realizing the intricacies of such tiny organisms? I spent a whole week trying to sort insects according to their orders. The most interesting thing is, I didn’t get bored. It was so easy to go through a whole day of work just looking at them under the microscope.
I was given a crash course on the types of insects and taxonomy before beginning the sorting process. It was a well-needed run through considering I did not have an in depth-study solely on insects. It was a quick explanation through power-point. Although brief, it was very informative. My task after that was to sort out a vial of collected insects. It was challenging and fun to get right on to insect-sorting, because as you see, it is not as easy to apply and observe things as it is to just read and understand an information sometimes. For example, I knew what the characteristics of Hemiptera were but it was hard to relate it under microscope observation right away. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a struggle of a lifetime as I tried my best to start sorting them out into smaller petri dishes. In fact, it was fascinating to be able to notice the tiny details of an insect and to realize their diversity and abundance . It was a revelation to me.
This week, another brief part of my internship has been to shadow and observe the process of making artificial diet for yellow stem borers, one of the major pests of plants. The scientists in this lab have been trying to come up with a formula for artificial diet so that these insects can be reared easily, efficiently and cost effectively. The purpose of this is to aid the supply of these pests for experimental processes. It was a highly regulated and accurately followed process of obtaining exact amounts of certain substances, mixing and sanitizing. It required much more care and caution than I thought. Now, the eggs of the yellow stem borer has been introduced in the vials of the artificial diet to observe if they survive and grow in the next few days or weeks.
All in all, Tita Joe, who was my mentor for this week, has been a great teacher and a very kind lady. There are also other people working in the lab who are as nice to me as any human can be. They keep me curious as they tell me about their own work and experiments they are conducting. IRRI really seems to be a place where people work out of passion for science, for rice and for a better world.
I am really grateful to IRRI, the Freeman Foundation and to our professor at IWU who organized this entire internship program, Dr. Teddy Amoloza. My summer internship experience has been good so far and I hope it doesn’t fail to impress me further.