Student - September 24, 2015

'I went "sightseeing" with my supervisor's family'

Who? Arlon Tillmans, Master’s student of Biology and Climate Studies
What? Fieldwork for her thesis on winter photosynthesis in Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine)
Where? Sophia, Bulgaria

‘I started my fieldwork in the Netherlands, but after coming across a study done in Bulgaria, I decided to go there. This enabled me to expand and improve my research. Also, Bulgaria always has severe winters and that is important for my research question: is there any photosynthesis activity in Pinus sylvestris in the winter?


I spent four weeks in total at the University of Forestry in Sophia. I measured photosynthesis levels using a system that regulates leaf temperature and adds varying concentrations of CO2 to the leaf. You can then make a curve and eventually calculate the photosynthesis capacity. Since little research has been done at low leaf temperatures, I worked in the winter. The winter fieldwork was lovely; sometimes there was a lot of snow lying but I never got too cold through my think winter clothes. I spent about two weeks doing fieldwork, taking measurements of a tree by day, and I spent the other two weeks organizing and analysing the data.

The researchers at the university in Bulgaria were very friendly and helpful and helped me a lot. They were very interested, too, as they are doing research on this species of pine as well. I really enjoyed my time there. The supervisors at the university took me out to local restaurants a lot and my supervisor even invited me home to dinner with his family. It was a good experience to work with other researchers. I stayed in a hostel so I met a lot of travellers from other countries. That meant there was always something nice to do after work, like eating together and having a chat, or exploring the city. So I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Bulgaria. I would do it again without hesitation, and I didn’t for one moment regret it or have any doubts.’