Slow Growth

Lauren Sanchez ‘11: Changes in Leaf Area Index (LAI) due to Ice Storm Damage at Harvard Forest

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Session: Slow Growth- MBH 216 at 10:45 a.m. from the Undergraduate Research Spring Symposium
Faculty Sponsor: Steve Trombulak, Biology
Major: Enviromental Studies and Biology
Research Support: US Department of Energy

Terrestrial ecosystems play an integral role in the global carbon balance, potentially functioning as carbon sinks that fluctuate through time and seasonal changes. The net ecosystem exchange of these ecosystems has been heavily studied at the Harvard Forest Environmental Measurements Site (HFEMS) and has shown an increase in carbon sequestration over the past two decades. My study was conducted to analyze various impacts of the ice storm that struck New England in December 2008 with respect to the forest carbon flux. Several methods, including the eddy covariance technique, measuring downed woody biomass, and determining leaf area index (LAI) values, were used to evaluate and quantify the ice storm impacts. Several significant relationships were found in changes in LAI values, highlighting the importance of these measurements and analyses. The implications of these results also emphasize the importance of these forest measurements, given their role in the global carbon cycle.

Anne Runkel ‘11: Environmentally Caused Chemical Constituent and Nutritional Variation in the Oilseed Crop Camelina sativa

Session: Slow Growth- MBH 216 at 10:25 am from the Undergraduate Research Spring Symposium
Faculty Sponsor: Helen Young, Biology
Major: Biology
Research Support: Priscilla (Kay) Beck ’52 Botany Fellowship

It is important to understand how crops will respond to climate change. Temperature, water availability, and insect predation influence crop yield and may also affect crop nutrients. Camelina sativa (camelina), an oilseed crop high in omega-3 fatty acids (FAs), grows best in cold climates of southwestern Canada and northwestern US. In this study, camelina seeds and leaf tissue were grown at different temperatures and analyzed for FAs; glucosinolate levels were also studied in leaf tissue. This study’s findings suggest that higher temperatures significantly reduce omega-3 FAs and glucosinolates in camelina. Humans evolved with a 1:1 dietary ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s; however, the average ratio today is 15:1 to 25:1 and contributes to health disorders around the world. Will higher temperatures imbalance the FA ratio further? Based on these findings in camelina, further research must determine if the nutritive value of major crops will also be altered by climate change. This research was conducted at Montana State University with assistance from Dr. David Sands and Dr. Alice Pilgeram.

Darcy Mullen ‘10: A New Way of Eating: Slow Food’s Contribution to a Shift in American Food Culture

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Session: Slow Growth- MBH 216 at 10:05 a.m. from the Undergraduate Research Spring Symposium
Faculty Sponsor: Sandra Carletti, Italian
Major: Italian

My research looks at the success of the Slow Food movement in the United States, and how it was a contributing factor to a mental shift from fast unhealthy food to local healthy ones in a portion of the population. The movement was started in Italy, and while support for the movement has grown at the grass roots level, new pro-fast food elements have become present in Italian politics. Since its arrival in 2000 to the United States, the movement encouraged a process of education that promotes an understanding of the food industry. This study focuses on the changes in the food culture that were spurred by the Slow Food movement and have led to educational programs across the country and how this compares to Italy’s current situation.

Chris Free ‘10: The Population-level Impact of Density-dependent Seedling Mortality of Big-leaf Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla)

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Session: Slow Growth- MBH 216 at 9:45 a.m. from the Undergraduate Research Spring Symposium
Faculty Sponsor: Matt Landis, Biology
Major: Environmental Studies/Biology
Research Support: Senior Work Fund

A high mortality of seeds and seedlings has been documented in areas of high conspecific adult density as a result of increased predation and disease. Although this phenomenon has received significant attention in the scientific literature, the long-term evolutionary and ecological impact of density-dependent seedling mortality remains poorly understood. The purpose of the present study is to determine the population-level impact of density-dependent seedling mortality on heavily exploited big-leaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla). The study was conducted by developing a spatially explicit individual-based model to examine the population size and distribution differences in mahogany populations grown with and without density-dependent seedling mortality. The heavy exploitation and threatened status of big-leaf mahogany highlight the importance of understanding density-dependent interactions in the develo p.m.ent of more robust predictive models and management plans.