Texas Tech University

In the Field

In the Field

Think all research is test tubes and lab coats? Think again. Join John Davis as he gets his hands dirty with some research In the Field!

 

Episode 8: Life on the Devil’s Highway (Part 2)

John Davis sees what the nightlife is all about in the Sonoran Desert.

After seeing what tinajas look like in the blistering heat of the day, John Davis finds out that’s only half the story. Graduate research assistant Joseph Drake shows John the kinds of creatures that are there when no humans around. Everything from quail to foxes is caught on a hidden camera that gives researchers insight into the frequent patrons of these watering holes.

Kerry Griffis-Kyle, associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources Management, takes John back to the natural tinaja they encountered earlier, only this time the wildlife has changed. Instead of bees buzzing around the area, toads are getting their much needed moisture from the tinajas. Watch this seldom seen slice of life right here In the Field!

Additional video courtesy of Joseph Drake.

It should be noted that handling any kind of wildlife is potentially dangerous. Handling amphibians like the ones seen in this video can be especially hazardous. All “In the Field” video is shot under professional supervision.

 

Episode 8: Life on the Devil’s Highway (Part 1)

John Davis takes a trip to Arizona to see what a wetlands ecology researcher is doing in the Sonoran Desert.

It’s hard enough conducting research when you’re a scientist. It’s even harder when you’re doing it in triple digit temperatures, next to an air force bombing range, and in a land known to locals and desperate folks across the border as the “Devil’s Highway.” The Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range makes up part of the Sonoran Desert, a hot landscape that stretches across Southern Arizona near the Mexico border. Kerry Griffis-Kyle, an associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources Management, and her graduate research assistants Demi Gary and Joseph Drake routinely hike their way around this desert to see how wildlife thrives in the harsh environment.

They focus on tinajas (Spanish for “jar”), which are pockets of water scattered around the Sonoran Desert. Some are natural while others are artificially constructed to help hydrate the wildlife. Griffs-Kyle and her team examine the differences between these natural and artificial tinajas and how they can potentially impact the animals that depend on them. Join John as he treks into the dangerous terrain to see research in action in the field.

Additional video was provided by Joseph Drake.

 

Episode 7: Extreme Cotton

John Davis takes a look at some modified cotton that can withstand extreme elements.

Hong Zhang, professor of plant molecular biology and plant biotechnology, and his team conduct research on transgenic cotton which is resistant to heat, drought, and salt. These transgenic crops can help farmers by making their plants live longer in extreme weather.

They isolate the genes they want and transplant them into cotton, which is put through several tests to determine how well the crop can resist against the elements. First, the transgenic plants endure the growth chamber to resist temperature changes. Next, the plants are moved to the greenhouse for testing with drought and salinity. After that, they’re taken to an experimental farm where they come up against real world elements.

Watch how this process unfolds.

 

Episode 6: Prehistoric Water Runs Deep

John Davis examines the efforts of one researcher hoping to save the future of our water by digging into our past.

Venki Uddameri, director of the Water Resources Center in the Whitacre College of Engineering, looks for ways to conserve our water supply by using prehistoric water from sources below the Ogallala Aquifer.

The Ogallala Aquifer stretches beneath eight states and serves as the source of water for millions of people living up and down the Great Plains. Unfortunately, people are consuming water faster than it can be replenished. The Dockum Aquifer sits deeper than the Ogallala and consists of brackish water. However, Uddameri believes that the Dockum water can be treated and used to offset some water usage from the Ogallala.

 

Episode 5: Invasion of the Water Snatchers (Junction Part 2)

To conclude our two-part stop in Junction, John Davis fights off an alien species invading the South Llano River. It's not little green men he's fighting. He's battling 20-foot high green plants called arundo, and they pose a huge threat to life on the river.

County Judge Delbert Roberts tells John the importance of the watershed protection plan being implemented by stakeholders in the region. Tom Arsuffi, director of the Llano River Field Station, joins us again and shows us a crop of arundo that's taken over a part of the South Llano River State Park.

 

Episode 4: Messing with Mesquite (Junction Part 1)

In the first part of our two-part season finale, John Davis travels to Junction to visit the Llano River Field Station at the Texas Tech University Center at Junction. He finds out about the efforts to preserve the watershed on the South Llano River and about how much a mess mesquite can make.

Tom Arsuffi, director of the Llano River Field Station, shows us some of the things his folks are doing to keep the South Llano healthy and beautiful. Karen Lopez, the station's assistant director, shows us how they manage to tame the mesquite problem around the river.

The Llano River Field Station at the Texas Tech University Center at Junction provides a hands-on opportunity for researchers and students to engage with the environment.

 

Episode 3: Catching Frogs at the Lake Waco Wetlands

John Davis hops on down to Waco, Texas where graduate student Phillip Seiwert sees how climate change is affecting frogs and other wildlife in the area.

The Lake Waco Wetlands is a 180-acre region that was created by the City of Waco in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Baylor University. It was built to house animals and plants that were displaced when Lake Waco's water levels were increased. Despite the drought, John and Phillip encounter different kinds of wildlife out and about in the wetlands.

 

Episode 2: Experimenting with Wine

John Davis checks out Texas Tech’s experimental vineyard where research is underway on how certain kinds of wine can be made in the West Texas environment.

Ed Hellman, professor of viticulture, shows us how grapes can be tested to see if they’re ready for the winemaking process. Thayne Montague, associate professor of viticulture, walks us through how researchers can examine photosynthesis in the grape plants. Brent Pape, viticulture research technician, demonstrates how the grapes are processed once they’re off the vine.

 

Episode 1: Matrix Washing at Lubbock Lake Landmark

John Davis heads to the heart of one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in history to find somewhere to eat - only he's a few thousand years too late. Instead, he checks out a bison kill site and sifts through some matrix to find remnants of the past.

Eileen Johnson, director of Lubbock Lake Landmark, shows us a bison kill site where the indigenous Plainview people gathered for food. As they process the site, sections of the ground are dug out and bagged up to be sent to their matrix washing lab. Assistant Collections Manager Alyssa Magnone demonstrates how these chunks of earth are broken down and sifted through to find fossils and other relics of the past.

 

Don't forget to check out these other publications by the Office of the Vice President for Research:

Discoveries MagazineEureka Entrepreneurial Magazine