Tools for Undergraduate Research in Environmental Science and Field Biology:
(Note: As of Fall, 2013, only Units II and III are active. Other Units will be added over the coming months.)

I. Scientific Inquiry: How to identify a research topic, question and hypothesis

II. Fundamentals of Field Sampling: How to design a field study

III. Graphing and Statistics: How to interpret your data using MS Excel

IV. Communicating Your Results: Tips for writing effective papers and making clear presentations

  maps of region where we're living

August 24, 2013, from Chaukori: Machine!, Machine!

(Posted Sept 3rd once we could get back online)

What do you do when there's water all over the floor near the toilet and you suspect there's a nasty leak somewhere? . . . have the director of the school send maintenance staff down to the guest house, of course. So we were quite relieved when Sehdev showed up to apply his skills to our problem.

Sehdev spent about 10 minutes in the bathroom during which we heard all sorts of pouring, splashing and flushing, then the next thing we knew, he ran from the room with a huge grin on his face yelling "machine!, machine!" then quickly disappeared into the night. Despite the fact that there was now more water on the floor (not less), we took this episode as some small form of progress.

A day or two later, Sehdev returned with the machine: an electric-powered tile cutter. Since the commode sits on tiles, we figured maybe he had to cut it out and look at the seal or whatever else might be leaking. The only problem was that when he arrived, there was no electricity. It turns out our electricity cuts in and out rather randomly . . . (though I'm certainly not complaining since it seems to work more than fifty percent of the time).

Fortunately, Sehdev was not deterred by the lack of electricity . . . he just hung out laughing and joking with our Indian neighbors, biding his time until he could power the machine. Before too long, we did in fact regain power and Sehdev proceeded to hook up the tile cutter. And since the machine had no actual plug connected to it, the round holes in the Indian outlets came in quite handy as it's no problem to just stick the wires directly into the outlet for power.

The tile cutter wires stuck directly into the outlet:

After much cutting, banging, loss of power and more joking with our neighbors, and some searching in the soil with Tulsi (the grandmother of the family next door) for unknown (to us) ingredients to mix into some mortar, Sehdev was finished with his work and he revealed his solution to us.

Some magical ingredient in this or a nearby soil helped with the mortar for the drain:

Rather than cutting out the commode, he simply installed a drain from the base of the commode to the lower area of the bathroom where there's a floor drain below the spigot for our bucket baths, a rather ingenious solution if you ask me.

View of the new drain to carry leaking water away from our commode:

View of the top of the drain:

View of the bottom of the drain:

Amazingly, ever since the drain has been installed, no more water has been leaking. And if the leak does return, we have the peace of mind of knowing the new drain will simply carry any leaking water away.

Despite all the crazy details, my favorite part of this story is how relaxed and happy Sehdev was throughout the whole repair job. No power, no problem, just hang out having fun with the neighbors. No plug, no problem, stick the wires right into the outlet. Lack of ingredients for mortar, no problem, get Tulsi's help finding something magical in the soil. Puddle near the commode, no problem, install a makeshift drain. When you look at it through Sehdev's eyes, no problem . . . what's not to be happy about?

This site created and maintained by
Dr. Rhine Singleton
Associate Professor of Biology & Environmental Science
Franklin Pierce University, Rindge, NH 03461
You can contact me at: singler at franklinpierce dot edu