Saturday, August 23, 2008

Smells like science

My adviser, Dr. J, often goes on collecting trips into the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico, and California, looking for unusual and random varieties of chenopods, our plants of choice. Some of the chenopods can be identified merely by their scent. I am partial to Chenopodium graveolens, which smells very herby, like it would be a good addition to a soup.

In stark contrast to C. graveolens, there is C. watsonii, which reeks like dead fish. The plant itself isn't so bad unless it's dried, but the seed is incredibly smelly.

Dr. J was gone most of last week on a collecting trip and he came in to work yesterday with a whole slew of bags full of seed. When I walked into his office to have a conference, I noticed a slightly funny odor but I didn't think much of it until he pulled out two bags full of watsonii seed and had me smell them. Then I almost gagged, and politely pointed out to him that his office was starting to smell like dead fish. He remedied the situation by turning on a candle melter to chase out the unpleasant fumes.

I don't think it worked. I just got in to the lab this morning, and as I walked past Dr. J's office, I could smell the seeds even through the door. Yuck-o! I tremble to think what this place will smell like by the time Monday rolls around.

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