Lucy Schroeder (Plant Biodiversity)

Introduction: 

Hi, I’m Lucy Schroeder, this week’s featured scientist! I am a Plant and Microbial Biology student in Jeannine Cavender-Bares’ lab. I want to know what environmental conditions and evolutionary processes have led to the patterns of plant diversity we see today. One method I use in my research is hyperspectral data. This method uses the reflectance of light from the plant’s surface and allows us to determine a ton of characteristics of the plant with one measurement. 

I focus on understanding how and why diversity changes along a gradient of elevations in the Chilean Andes. Understanding the patterns of plant diversity we see in this region is important because plants at different elevations will experience different effects of climate change. Plants at higher elevations are adapted to colder temperatures, longer snow cover, and higher wind. Some of these adaptations include hairy leaves, lying low to the ground, and overall just being small. It is truly amazing how much diversity exists in a 1100 meter (3600 feet) change in elevation!

Research overview:

Lucy focuses on understanding how and why diversity changes along a gradient of elevations in the Chilean Andes. Understanding the patterns of plant diversity we see in this region is important because plants at different elevations will experience different effects of climate change. Plants at higher elevations are adapted to colder temperatures, longer snow cover, and higher wind. Some of these adaptations include hairy leaves, lying low to the ground (see pic 3 and 4), and overall just being small. It is truly amazing how much diversity exists in a 1100 meter (3600 foot) change in elevation!

Fun Facts:

There are around 320,000 species of plants, all with amazing capabilities! Here are some fun facts about them.

Under pressure!

-plants move water through tubes called “xylem” 

-differences in pressure help the plant move the water through those tubes

-this pressure can reach up to 12 MPa – 4700% more than a pressurized tire! (tires are inflated to 0.25 MPa)

Old trees

-Some trees are older than the Egyptian pyramids!

-pyramids: built 4500 years ago

-oldest bristlecone pine tree: 4851 years old

Family relations

-Did you know roses are in the same plant family as apples and cherries? (Rosaceae)

-Did you know poison ivy is in the same plant family as mangos and cashews? (Anacardiaceae)

Resources:

You don’t have to go all the way to the mountains of Chile to find cool plants! Right here, in Hennepin and Ramsey county, Minnesota, there are 1040 native species of plants. Let’s see what you can find in your own backyard! Go outside and find a plant!

Use the worksheet provided to help you notice some characteristics about it. Then, for an extra challenge, see if you can identify the plant! 


For a bonus art project, try making a leaf rubbing! Find a cool leaf and put a piece of paper on top of it. Then, take a crayon and rub it over the paper on a hard surface. The leaf will magically appear on your paper! Notice the different leaf shapes and patterns in the veins. Aren’t plants neat? To learn more, Check out the leaf rubbing tutorial Lucy created.