Alright...I know you guys are dying to know more about my thesis....so here is the title:
"Investigations into gametophyte morphology and population sex ratios through direct comparisons between laboratory-grown and field-grown fern gametophytes."
Riveting, isn't it?
What it boils down to is me staring into a microscope alot looking at fern gametophytes. What are fern gametophytes? They are the part of the fern life cycle where sexual structures are produced and where sexual reproduction happens. The gametophyte determines where you will find fern sporophytes (the big leafy plants most people recognize as ferns) in the landscape and they are very important in understanding the biology, ecology, and reproductive biology of ferns in general (since this is where sex happens; whether it be outcrossing or selfing). My job was to go to the rain forest, collect gametophytes there, bring them back to the lab and compare them to gametophytes we grew in the lab. Of course, there's a lot more to it than that, but this is the uber-condensed version.
The above picture is of a fern gametophyte...the scale bar is in millimeters, so they are pretty little (about the size of your pinky fingernail).
The other graduate students in the department like to say that I spend my days staring at fern porn. Which, is pretty much the truth. Swimming sperm and all!
Hmm...I wonder if net nanny likes this post?!?
Here are some random pictures from my time in the rainforests of Costa Rica and Taiwan (where I did my field work). All of these pictures were taken in Taiwan, except for the one of me collecting gametophytes off of the buttress roots of a tropical tree. Yes, the monkeys were at my field site - I collected plants very near them and they weren't incredibly happy about it. The other two pictures are just landscape-type pictures. Man, the rainforest is a TERRIBLE place to have to be (just kidding - it is obviously incredibly beautiful, despite the spiders and insects. I'll share some of those photos another time).