Stephen Soerens, 2015, Civil and Environmental Engineering

As part of the Princeton Ecohydrology Lab this past summer, I investigated how trees use water in response to different environmental conditions. The way in which tree species will respond to drought and other consequences of climate change is an important variable in climate models. To understand these ecosystem changes, we need to determine how species balance the risk of damaging their tissue (cavitation in the xylem) with the reward of photosynthesis in order to outgrow and outlast their competitors. In researching this question, I used methods that employed both low-tech, mostly homemade instrumentation, and the more hi-tech LI-COR gas exchange system that is familiar to the plant physiologist. These methods required thorough troubleshooting as complications arose, but provided me with the experience needed to confidently investigate plant hydraulic systems. Ultimately I was able to gather meaningful data that demonstrated the value and validity of the combination of methods used. After mastering the methodology and gathering some promising data over the summer, I hope to be able to further investigate drought response as part of my senior independent research.