REU Research foci: How plants optimize water transport by adjusting the structure and function of xylem cells with respect to abiotic and biotic climate stress such as drought, freezing, herbivory (with Laurel Fox). Evolution of plant vascular systems and how plant water relations factor into climate change response of plants.
Typical REU project: Water deficits can profoundly impact plant survival. A student could test whether plants are more drought stressed from the coast to an inland fog transect. An REU student would assess plants’ water status by 1) collecting plants and use standard lab protocols to characterize species’ vulnerability to cavitation, and 2) collecting seasonal data on mid-day plant water status and transpiration rates (H2O loss) at different field sites. These in situ values can be aligned with the cavitation assessment to determine whether drought stress causes differential hydraulic dysfunction and physiological impairment across the gradient. Students will develop projections of tree mortality based on a ground-truth of the physiological model derived from vulnerability to cavitation (with Barry Sinervo)
Website: Pitterman Lab