Week 1 Blog for 6/19

This week I have more to report.
Despite some delays with my ID card, I was able to start working this week on Tuesday. I began learning the R programming language and I began to work with P-TRAP, a computer software program which helps a user classify rice panicle structure and count the number of rice granules.

credit: AL-Tam, F., Adam, H., Anjos, A.d. et al. P-TRAP: a Panicle Trait Phenotyping tool. BMC Plant Biol 13, 122 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2229-13-122

Above is an example of the analyzing structure part of my job. I am not allowed to share the results I have worked with so far, but above is an example from the paper originally describing the function of this software. The software is not that good at developing the above structure on its own, so my job is to fix it.

On Friday, IRRI had a day in the field for all the student workers. The Illinois Wesleyan Students, along with some students from India, were able to be rice farmers for the day. We got to use both traditional and mechanized ways of planting rice, even using an ox to plow a rice field. We also practiced different methods of planting rice, including planting by hand and machine. Also, I learned that around 70% of Filipino rice is still planted by hand, but mechanization is being slowly adopted. I am still waiting on getting some photos back from IRRI, but once they are here, I will upload them to my blog.

After the rice picking, Froilan, the main person at IRRI who has helped us get settled, offered to take us on a tour of Los Banos. He showed us parts of the campus, The Philippines’s largest lake, and brought us to a dairy shop where I tried carabao milk, a cow native to the Philippines and the same kind used to plow Filipino rice fields. It tasted like slightly bitter whole milk. Finally, our group had Buko pie, a coconut based pie that tasted very good.

Finally, on Saturday, some of the other Wesleyan students and I decided to go on a hike partially up a nearby mountain to see a mud spring. We left early in the morning and walked by a bazaar, a group of outdoor shops that sell food. They had lots of different options of food, and music was being played on a speaker. We then worked our way through town towards the entrance of the trail. Once we were there, we had to check in, then begin our climb. During our climb, we saw many cyclists, and people enjoying the trail. It was a steep hike, especially for someone used to the Midwest. The trail was paved, really a narrow road. There were even motorbikes and a few cars driving on the trail. As we approached our destination, we were surprised to find a few snack/touristy shops that was relatively busy. Shortly afterwards, we finally reached our destination: the mud spring.

From the mud spring there a slight smell of sulfur, and you could see some plants have died from being too close to the boiling mud. There was a barbed fence that surrounded the pit with signs warning of severe injury if you touched the mud. We then returned to campus and picked up McDonald’s on the way back.

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