Anna Marsh, 2020, Architecture

I spent the summer collecting data on plant defense mechanisms in the savanna. We studied a range of plants to determine how herbivore predation informs plant phenotype. Using GPS technology and basic measuring tools, we found that there is a significant relationship between a plant’s proximity to large trees and its thorn density. Larger plants can serve as a proxy defense mechanism that negates a smaller plant’s need to invest energy in growing thorns. It was amazing observing giraffes, elephants and zebras on my daily commute to different data-collection sites. I met students and researchers from all over the world while living and working at Mpala. Meals and downtime were complemented by conversations on projects such as baboon behavior and livestock management. As a prospective architecture major, this exposure to a unique ecosystem reminded me that natural concepts can be applied to modern development and infrastructure. For instance, I learned about termite homes and how they incorporate systems of ventilation underground, which could be used to reduce urban energy demands. ]

* This internship is connected to the PEI Water and the Environment Grand Challenges project, “Experimental Tests of Drought and Deluge in African Rangelands.”