Dirty work

This week, I’ve been setting up plots to measure soil CO2 flux. To do so, we install collars that fit the Li-Cor 8100A, a machine that can measure gas fluxes in situ.


This is harder than it looks, since we’re working with heavy clays that are very dry – think brittle cement. After digging a hole of the appropriate size, the soil needs to sieved through a 2 mm sieve before we replace it in the collar.


If we’re on top of our game, we can get about six cores installed in 3.5 hours. But the leaf-cutter ants’ digging skills put us to shame – check out the size of this mound!


Several tons of dirt, in homogenous 1-mm aggregates, excavated by millions of Atta ants.

It’s definitely the most impressive colony I’ve ever seen. And speaking of dramatic insect encounters, witness this amazing battle that took place the other morning in our kitchen:


Never a dull moment in the field!




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