Research Opportunities: academic year

Melcher: Research in Biology

PETER MELCHER Section 06   

  •  Investigating the degree of leaf plasticity (shape and fitness) in trees growing across large latitudinal gradients to evaluate how climate change will alter forest composition

Inter- and Intraspecific leaf plasticity provides plants with a mechanism to maximize fitness in response to growing conditions that exist during leaf development.  Understanding how plants respond to changes in abiotic factors during leaf ontogeny as well as understanding which factors drive leaf plasticity will provide great value in understanding whole plant responses to their environment. Leaf plasticity would be expected to provide plants to maximize their ecological range.  This project is focused on analyzing leaf traits from species that span large latitudinal gradients (e.g. Acer rubrum that spans from the Florida Keys to Nova Scotia).

  • Investigating how the environment impacts intracanopy leaf shape and hydraulic design

Trees must balance leaf water supply to water loss across their canopies.  Because the environmental conditions such as light and evaporative water loss are highly varied within a single crown this project focuses on processes that allow plants to mitigate water distribution across their canopies.

  • Evaluating how wounding of plant hydraulics impacts leaf fitness

This project is investigating how xylem wounding in stems and leaves impact leaf fitness.  Because plants are under constant attack from herbivores, one would expect that plants have a rapid ability to deal with protecting the hydraulic system either through redundant hydraulic designs or by chemically sealing off a wound or both. This is important in understanding how plants protect themselves against the invasion of pathogens that can migrate into their bodies through wound sites and how fitness is compromised while being eaten by herbivores.

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