I am currently a PhD student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in Dr. Jarmila Pittermann’s lab. My main research interest is xylem hydraulics, or roughly, the way that water moves through plants. In general, xylem hydraulics has a four-way trade-off among 1.) a plant’s ability to move water quickly, 2.) drought resistance, 3.) wood strength, and 4.) resources invested in building water conduits. For example, a plant may build cheap water conduits that can transport water quickly, but will in return have easily broken stems ¬†and be vulnerable to drought. Successful strategies, those that allow plants to survive and compete with other plants, are determined by the plant’s growing conditions. I want to know how plants change their hydraulic strategies to suit their environment, both between generations and within an individual. Understanding this aspect of plant physiology can help us understand current plant distributions and more accurately predict species range shifts or extinction under changing atmospheric conditions; this knowledge can inform restoration and conservation efforts. (Besides, plant vascular systems are absolutely fascinating!)


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What a cross-sectional slice of xylem looks like under the microscope under 400x zoom