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Need help in characterising my research ( amatuer night!)

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Need help in characterising my research ( amatuer night!)

Postby movenosound » Wed Feb 16, 2011 7:12 am

Hello to everyone, this is my first post here, and so I have decided to come right out with my big question, my big big problem.

I have spent the last year learning about the subjects that have drawn me into the world of science, so much so that I am going so far as to leave behind my current career, begin at the very bottom of the college ladder, and begin the path towards work with the subjects that I am insanely passionate about. (Literally, I get so excited when I come across new research that touches on the subjects that I am focused on that I will dish out the cash and spend the following hours to days immersed in the paper I have bought from Science Direct or Wiley Online, sometimes neglecting social contact and sustenance.)

So to get to my question, the research that I need better define and understand how I can prevent from becoming exponentially complex. My subject is arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, or endomycorrhiza. The focus of my research is understanding what specific effects any particular species of endomycorrhiza will have on the growth of any particular species of host plant. Previously, I think that the understanding people had was that the effects of mycorrhizal symbioses could be accepted as somewhat general, though the past decade has produced a slew of research that illustrates the very specific nature of this symbioses. One species might increase the uptake of P by a factor of two, while a similar species from the same genus might have a marginal increase in the uptake of P, but have a dramatic increase in N, K, and H2O. What I would like to be able to do is find a means of looking at any given species and be able to describe what it's potential effects on the growth of a given host plant species might be.

Add to this that the effects on growth of a host plant will also be effected by the environmental conditions that exist in the habitat, ecology, etc. So, pH, humidity, temperature, soil makeup, nutrient levels and just about any other variable that you could test, will have an impact on how these amazing little fungi will help out their host plant-friends. Though trying to take this all into consideration will cause a massive increase in complexity, I want my research to take our understanding of this symbiosis to a level that will allow ecologists, agriculturists, and even your local gardener to anticipate what the presence or lack thereof a species of endomycorrhiza will have on plants, and thus the ecology or other system of concern.

So far, the method of research I have been practicing involves the pot-culture of host species in sterile soil, and the introduction of individual species of endomycorrhiza, and the observation of the effects. This method is great when observing a specific interaction, but in order for this method to be used for my goals, I would have to test every species of endomycorrhiza with every conceivable host plant species. That would take lifetimes. And not just a couple. And as much I might think that these fungi are the cat's pajamas, I would like to complete this research and move on to even more fungi-ecology-glomalin-all that- kind of fun.

My question is, how do I go about minimizing the complexity of this research? Does this kind of research fit into a pre-existing model, one that takes the potential for exponential growth of complexity and controls or reduces it to a manageable level? A friend of mine, a civil engineer, told me that he thought that this problem reminded him of the type of thing that required some application of calculus, because of it's dealing with continuously changing variables, or something to that effect.

I know that I have set a huge task for myself, and it might seem idiotic for a person who has yet to begin going to community college, to be trying to start work on a thesis, but it is because of the intense nature of this that I am happy to begin addressing the initial problems, namely, the very concept of the research itself. And I feel that I should point out that I intend this to be the work of my doctoral thesis, not my bachelor's. Yes, I am not just planning to change careers and go back school, but I am going to take the education to the highest level I can, unless along the way I come across a way of practicing the science I am taken with, without requiring higher degrees, but I will not count on it.

Thanks for undertaking the reading of this, and for anyone who bothers to give this any thought, I thank you. Please throw as many questions, demands for clarifications, or happy words of encouragement as you can muster.
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Postby adihutama » Thu Feb 17, 2011 3:24 am

Hi, movenosound

Great to know that you re chasing other thing beside money. From what I read, you left your job for this research, that you call your new passion.

Well, as a fellow amateur, I can only tells you to minimize your variable. Beside, biological research always involve too many variable, especially because we are dealing with a living thing. Though most of them dont have brain (plant, culture, fungi, microbes), they re still a living being with a free will. This sometime, and more other times, makes your research finish just not the way you wanted too

I wish you good luck for your new passion, keep up the spirit (and ours)

Cheerioss,
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