Plant communities worldwide are facing increasingly severe and prolonged droughts, which frequently result in leaf hydraulic failure and whole plant death. Leaf hydraulic vulnerability to drought is a highly integrated component of several physiological and anatomical traits. However, we still have a limited understanding of how anatomical properties contribute to leaf-level responses to drought. In this project, we will test how leaf anatomy influences the leaf hydraulic efficiency (Kleaf) and the ability of leaves to maintain hydraulic function during drought (P50). We already estimated Kleaf and P50 in a phylogenetic diverse set of 90 plant species (angiosperms and ferns) collected from the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. The next step is to apply anatomical and imaging analysis and assess how the interspecific variation in leaf hydraulic vulnerability is related to several xylem (e.g. number of xylem conduits per bundle; conduit diameter and cross-sectional area; cell wall thickness) and outside-xylem (e.g. mesophyll, cuticular and epidermis thickness; intervessel distance) anatomical traits. Deciphering those relationships is crucial to understand and to predict how different plant species and communities will respond to a drier world.
We will hire up to two undergraduate students to specifically work on:
i. Preparing leaf cross-sections for anatomical analysis;
ii. Obtaining microscopical images of leaf cross-sections;
iii. Extracting leaf xylem and outside-xylem anatomical traits using image processing software (ImageJ/GIMP);
iv. Managing/organizing large datasets;
iv. Conducting statistical analysis using R language.
Students will develop skills in leaf anatomy, microscopy, imaging processing and computational data analysis. This will also be an excellent opportunity for students to improve their independent thinking skills and to learn how to work in a laboratory environment. Additionally, students will be welcomed to engaged in weekly lab meeting activities organized by the Macrosystem Ecology Lab, e.g. research presentations, paper discussions, orientation sessions, lab socials.
Candidates must show a strong motivation to work in laboratory with chemical, microscopy, and imaging analysis. Detail-oriented and organization skills are required. Prior experience in processing images and/or managing large datasets is desirable, but not required. Biology major are preferred.