The Animal Facility at UC Berkeley
My next adventure took me to the animal building at UC Berkeley. My graduate student host introduced me to some Siberian hamsters – they were small, fluffy, and gray. In picture 1, you can see how they came running over to meet me! In picture 2, you can see that one of the hamsters got so friendly that she started to nibble my fingers. I guess this is how hamsters shake hands!
In this lab, my student host was studying the tradeoffs between growing and staying warm. Both of these things take a lot of energy. Her hypothesis was that, if hamsters were colder and had to spend more energy staying warm, they might not have enough energy to grow quickly. To test her hypothesis, she designed an experiment, and is working on collecting the data. Sometimes, experiments don’t work on the first try, and sure enough, she found that there were some problems with her procedure. For example, she thought that the hamsters would want to raise their babies in a nest box, so she put a thermometer inside to measure their temperature. But as it turned out, they didn’t want to use nest boxes as all! Now that she has revised the experiment, she’s going to run it again. During my visit, I learned that designing an experiment is like doing a puzzle. You just have to keep trying different things until you find something that works. It’s all part of the fun of doing science!