This week, the Long Science Center and the Leach Research Station were filled with enthusiasm as we welcomed seven high school students for their junior or senior projects!
Hanna Busby and Abby Bauer got their hands dirty in the Soil Ecology lab! Among other projects, they learned how DNA Extraction and PCR are useful for studying the organisms belowground that aide in forest health. (See the Ecological Integrity of Forests project for more details).
The Evolutionary Ecology lab hosted Hannah Anderson and Olivia Walker, who used microscopes and computers to study plant cells in duckweeds. Dr. Na Wei’s research using the bioenergy plants, duckweeds, investigates how duckweeds and their microbes can be leveraged to mitigate climate change. This research is recently funded by the National Science Foundation!
In Working Woods, our 67-acre forest management demonstration site, Ella Johnson and Liam Logan helped survey invasive plant species. This work is helping us understand how different land management strategies affect the trajectory of the forest plants.
Rosie Bennett worked with many of the plants that make up HF&G’s rhododendron collection at the Leach Research Station. There was much to learn about plant curation and breeding within the 60 acres dedicated to rhododendrons at this station. (More information is available on the Rhododendron Collection Curation project page.)
The staff in the Research department had a great time hosting these students and getting to do some science with these budding scientists!
Sarah Kyker, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Associate
I am a microbial ecologist interested in the influence of human-induced and natural environmental changes on microbial communities. Because microorganisms are small in size, they are environmentally sensitive. Despite their small size, microorganisms can have a large impact on the overall health of a habitat due to their role in ecosystem processes. Consequently, environmental changes that alter microbial communities can have a large effect on the overall health of the habitat. My research focuses on deciduous forest soils, which harbor a tremendous diversity of microorganisms. For example, just a teaspoon of uncontaminated soil is estimated to contain millions of microbial species and billions of individual microbial cells. I primarily study bacteria and fungi, as these groups make up a large portion of the microbial diversity in soil. I use molecular techniques to study the community composition of microorganisms and functional genes possessed by microorganisms. The goal of my research is to help elucidate the importance of environmental changes to the health of a habitat or an ecosystem when these changes affect the smallest inhabitants.