A Day in the Life of Sara Stricker, MSc Student
Sara Stricker is a second year student in the Master's of Science in Environmental Science program. Her research is focused on understanding the growth and control of the Microdochium nivale fungus under changing climatic conditions. When not working in the lab or in the field, Sara is actively involved with the OAC Graduate Student Council as the 2016 President. See what a typical day is like for Sara in her profile below by clicking through the arrows.
On nice mornings, I like to bike to my office in the Edmund C. Bovey Building. Before I head upstairs, I always stop at the Greenhouse Cafe. I am a volunteer at the coffee cart and help with set-up in the morning and clean-up in the evening. All proceeds from the coffee sales go to the SES graduate student council, so I make sure to grab a coffee every morning!
Most days, my work starts in the lab. My thesis project focuses specifically on the potential impacts of climate change, such as increasing temperatures and carbon dioxide concentrations, on the severity of Microdochium patch symptoms in turfgrass. To study this, I grow a variety of turfgrass cultivars in a growth room and check on them every morning. This grass will be inoculated with Microdochium nivale, the fungus which causes Microdochium patch, and incubated under a variety of climatic conditions to assess the severity of the fungus on the turfgrass cultivars.
I grow the Microdochium nivale fungus in Petri dishes of Potato Dextrose Agar (PDA). To ensure sterility, the PDA media is autoclaved (sterilized using heat and pressure) before it is used. I tend to autoclave any necessary material for the day around lunch time, so it is ready to use when I get back to the lab.
Twice a month I meet with the OAC Graduate Student Council at noon in Johnston Hall. As president, I lead the meeting and facilitate the organization of social events for graduate students where they can relax, socialize and network across departments. This June, we are planning an ice cream social at the Boathouse!
When I get back from lunch, the autoclave is finished and I can pour the sterilized media into Petri dishes. Once the media sets, it has a texture similar to Jell-O, and it has all the necessary nutrients for fungi to grow. The fungus I work work was initially collected from grass samples in the field and cultured in Petri dishes. In this photo I am preparing PDA plates to grow new colonies of Microdochium nivale which will then be incubated at different temperatures over the next two weeks as I record growth rates of the fungus under the varying conditions.
Later in the afternoon, I sometimes have the opportunity to venture out of the lab and into the field. My field work is conducted at the Guelph Turfgrass Institute where we have established eleven plots of different turfgrass cultivars and are testing the efficacy of Microdochium nivale resistance activator products. I spray the resistance activator on some plots using a hand sprayer, and have control plots sprayed with water. Then I inoculate the turfgrass with the Microdochium nivale fungus and rate the disease severity across the plots. This today was particularly sunny, but usually my field seasons are in cold, damp weather of the spring and fall since this fungus prefers the cooler temperatures.
By the late afternoon I am back in the lab. Every experiment I conduct generates lots of data, which means I also spend lots of time at my computer analyzing the data. To make sure my results are statistically significant, I use a program called SAS which generates ANOVA tables and p values. Eventually all of the data will make it into my thesis and hopefully into several published journal articles.
When I return home from campus in the evenings I like to spend my time doing something totally different. You can often find me, quite literally, burning time, creating wood burning works of art which my housemate and I sell at local art shows. I am often kept company by my pet cockatiel, Carlos. So far I am on track to defend my thesis in April 2017, and will continue on to complete a PhD.