Katherine Smith ’15
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Plant water stress and source: Impacts of herbivory in riparian zones
My project brought together ecology and chemistry, as I worked for both an ecology professor and an engineering professor with an interest in ecohydrology. I spent my time this summer focusing on water; specifically, a river’s interactions with other parts of the ecosystem, including both flora and fauna. I examined the role of grazing on water stress in plants near rivers, as well as the differences in water source in plants located on different bank slopes. On a given day, I would collect soil, grass, and water samples and bring them back to the lab, where I would process the samples to analyze soil moisture and to get an isotopic signature of the water in the plants and soils. These signatures allowed us to quantify the plants’ water sources and their levels of water stress. I learned a great deal about sampling methods and field research biology, both through my project and through other researchers at the center. This project opened my eyes to potential job opportunities, both in formal academia and in managing projects for professors after graduation. I am looking forward to doing more fieldwork as research for my senior thesis, particularly ecological fieldwork with an emphasis on conservation.
Mpala Reserach Centre, Kenya
Kelly Caylor, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering