I am now officially half way through my summer internship at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London. This means I’ve been in the UK for a month, which is hard to believe, but it also means that I only have a month left here, which is even harder to believe.
The past week at work has been really lovely. Kew is in the middle of an exciting several year long project in which they are sequencing the DNA of an individual from every plant and fungal genus known. The project is called The Plant and Fungal Tree of Life, or PAFTOL, and you can read more about it here: https://www.kew.org/science/who-we-are-and-what-we-do/strategic-outputs-2020/plant-and-fungal-trees-life. The project is a significant undertaking and will be a huge step for botanists, mycologists, conservationists, and taxonomists once completed.
This week, I was trained by one of the PAFTOL project leaders to extract samples from herbarium specimens to send to the lab for DNA sequencing. I have to look for newer specimens, make sure they were preserved using particular techniques, and carefully take leaves and vegetative material from the sheets while doing the least damage possible. It’s really exciting to take part in such a large and groundbreaking project.
My goal for the next few weeks at Kew is to step up my networking with other students and researchers. I’d like to build as many connections as possible before my time here is up!