In this post I’m going to introduce you to the team and go into a little more detail about the research being carried out.
Myself: For those of you who have not read the ‘About’ page, my name is Kiri Fisher. I’m a fourth year student from University College Dublin, studying Zoology & Botany. I travelled here with the group as a field assistant to help with the work, experience how research is conducted in the field, and of course learn lots! But enough about me, lets get on to the important people!
Wuu-Kuang is a post-doctoral researcher & Michelle is a PhD student. They are both funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) to investigate whether future changes in plant physiology, driven by rising levels of carbon dioxide, will enhance global runoff and flooding risk.
Harry: A post-doctoral researcher, undertaking a European Research Council (ERC) funded project. He is researching how simulated changes in Earth’s atmospheric composition at different intervals in Earth history influence stomatal behaviour and photosynthetic physiology in different plant groups He has joined Michelle & Wuu-Kuang this year in both Puerto Rico and Alaska to carry out his research as well as contribute some of his data to their project.
From left to right: Harry, Myself, Michelle & Wuu-Kuang.
What we do:
We are measuring stomatal conducance of leaves (the rate of passage of carbon dioxide (CO2) into, or water vapor out of the leaf through their stomata), in a range of selected woody species. We are working on the same species from a collection of leaves made thirty years ago. The first day at the site is spent walking trails to find our species of interest and to tag the best leaf from each individual. Measurements are taken daily over the next four days at each site, these measurements capture the instantaneous transport across leaves, as well as properties of the surrounding air. Meanwhile, Harry is also measuring the transport, but over a longer period of time, and under specific, controlled temperature, CO2, humidity & light intensity using a infared gas analyser called CIRAS. CIRAS measures conductance and photosynthesis, thus enabling the calculation of plants’ water use efficiency
Notes are taken on the individuals themselves as well as the habitat they are found in. On the last day the measured leaves are collected to be brought back for physiological analysis in the lab. Extra leaves from the individual are also collected to be pressed and sent to herbariums in UCD, the National Botanic Gardens Glasnevin, and the Smithsonian, Washington. The plants are placed into individually labelled sheets of newspaper, and placed on top of one another, with cardboard placed in between every few sheets. These are then placed into a plant press and left to dry for a few days.
Wuu-Kuang pressing plants in the field. The finished product.
This research has been carried out by Michelle and Wuu-Kuang in many climate zones;
Temperate Deciduous (Maryland & Pennsylvania)
Sub-Tropical Desert (Arizona)
Temperate Rainforest (Oregon)
Tropical Seasonal Forest (Puerto Rico)
Boreal Forest/Taiga (Alaska)
All of the collected data and physiological characteristics of the leaves will be compared to results gathered 30 years ago which will ultimately tell us how plants have changed over the past 30 years as a result of increasing Co2, if the way in which they are changing will increase flood risk, and to what extent by the year 2050.