168 Plant Science Building
My overall research interests lie in woody root physiological ecology. Primarily, my lab works on examining root morphological and physiological response to abiotic and biotic stressors. The majority of my research deals with growth and physiological responses of plants to water deficits under both greenhouse and field conditions. I am interested in the integration of whole plant water status in relation to soil and root demographics with root physiological characteristics at the individual root level. In particular, I focus on root response to localized water, hydraulic redistribution, and herbivory and how these parameters affect whole plant physiology. I aim to use basic research to address industry pertinent issues, such as stress caused by a limited water supply and fine root responses to herbivore pressures.
The majority of my research has focused on growth and physiological responses of plants to water deficits under both greenhouse and field conditions. In so doing, I concentrate on the integration of physiological responses from the organ to the whole plant level. In particular, I focus on root responses to localized water, hydraulic redistribution, and herbivory all important issues surrounding woody ornamental horticultural crops. My lab investigates inherent root-system growth patterns in heterogeneous environments as often found in both containerized and field grown plant material. One major question my research aims to address is "how does water stress influence root allocation and survivorship along a gradient in whole plant water stress severity? " Particularly, how does localized water stress affect individual roots? A complementary component of my research deals with the effects of insect feeding on root population dynamics and function. Plant herbivory can cause severe loss of plant biomass as well as impair physiological function and cause shifts in carbon allocation. Differences in root system growth rate may affect the mechanism by which plants deal with herbivory including, diminished frequency of root infection due to high root growth rates or temporal avoidance. Thus, understanding how plants respond to herbivore pressure strengthens our ability to manage plant-herbivore interactions.
I teach The Nature of Plants (HORT 1115), Environmental Landscape Management (HORT 4360) and coordinate the Plant Science Internship Program (HORT 4960).
The heart of effective teaching is the ability to help students learn. By this I mean teaching is the art of guiding students in the direction of information that allows them to reach conclusions and develop questions. Because of the diversity of backgrounds I have encountered when working with students I have learned two important lessons when it comes to teaching. First, an important component of teaching is being able to break down information to explain it in non-technical terms. Many students want to learn the information but simply have not developed a technical expertise yet. Second, encourage students to ask as many questions as possible which requires students to think about what they don’t understand. Although lecturing is often an integral portion of a teaching, knowledge gained without active engagement is seldom intriguing or thought provoking. Therefore, I encourage questions and challenges on conventional concepts, ideas and theories. Often the best way to foster such learning is through active discussion sessions and classroom participation. I have found all too often in my course work that students are provided with a set of facts. But it is not the facts that determine knowledge as much as it is the ability to think about them critically. One way in which this skill can be cultivated is through the use of problem sets. Often there is no one correct answer but allowing the students to think problems through and argue their points can only aid in turning bits of information into the whole story. Such exercises also promote the development of the students writing and communication skills which are important components of all job opportunities. One of my class objectives is to maintain a course with the most current literature. The use of current knowledge is imperative in any field of study and opens up the possibility for further advances in thought. In conjunction with learning the literature comes learning current technology used to arrive at stated conclusions. I promote the demonstration and use of the most up to date methods for measuring plant physiological variables in both the classroom and the field. Moreover, I challenge students to critique the methods and propose potential advancements in both instrumentation and its method of application. A more basic but fundamental quality associated with successful teaching includes class organization. Organization is important on many levels from the individual lecture material to the cohesion of the course as a whole. Introducing, presenting and providing a “take home message” to material provides students with a clear structure to their learning.