How do plants sense and respond to changes in their external environment? What are the chemical signals produced by plants in response to external stimuli (light, gravity, temperature) and how are these signals amplified within the larger plant community? This program focuses on these questions through the study of individual plants (autecology), the interactions among plants (synecology), and the physiological interactions of plants with their environment (ecophysiology).
Students will learn field and laboratory methods for studying plant community ecology and plant physiology including vegetation sampling methods, methods for measuring plant growth, photosynthesis, water-stress, and tree water-use. Lecture topics will include plant communities; competition and facilitation ecology; plant growth and development; plant hormones; water use; photosynthesis; rooting; and the potential effects of large-scale disturbances, such as climate change, on plant communities. We will apply what we learn about plant physiology to better understand current research in the broader fields of ecosystem and community ecology. Our readings will be divided between current widely used texts in plant physiology and ecology, historical papers of great importance, and current research papers from technical journals.
Local day trips, workshops, labs, and a multi-week field trip will allow us to observe field research on plant physiology, plant restoration, and the plant ecology of diverse environments, as well as conduct student-driven research on plant ecology and physiology. This is also a writing intensive program for technical science writing. Communication skills will be emphasized, particularly reading scientific articles and writing for scientific audiences.