Up Goer 5 Research Summaries

In Fall 2021, lab members tried our hands at transforming our “elevator pitches” into explanations using only the 1,000 most common words in the English language. (See this XKCD comic for an elegant example!). Feeling inspired? You can try it for yourself here!

Living things look different because of where they are or what they eat or what eats them. But sometimes we don’t actually know what about them makes them live in some places, or eat different things, or what makes them good to eat. If we look at how they grow, maybe we can understand why. — An Bui, Ph.D. student, Trait-based approaches to understanding macroalgal distributions

Trees team up with things in the ground that help them get food they can’t get themselves. Some ground things are better at helping trees get food when the ground is wet, and others are better at getting food when the ground is dry. If you put trees with the things that are used to wet ground and other trees with the things that are used to dry ground and make them all dry, then we think the ones that are used to dry ground will help the trees more than the ones that are used to wet ground. –– Ronja Keeley, Undergraduate Researcher, How ectomycorrhizae help trees tolerate stressful environments

How do living things make a living? They need to eat and drink and sometimes use the light from the sun to make food and drink! But what if they don’t have the right plans to make food and drink? Well, then they can go over to other living things and (1) make friends to get food from them, (2) take food from them by force, or (3) get the plans to make the food from them (This is kind of mean, but at least then they can make their own food!). We study how living things make, take, and plan their food by trying to make them grow in different ways. We have a lot of fun doing this, because we get to play with living things, use numbers, use computers, and be friends with each other. — Holly Moeller, Assistant Professor, Acquired metabolism

Every drop of huge water has lots of small living things in it that are too small to be seen with your eye. The little water guys are important because they are food for all the big water animals and because they make half the breathing air and turn over the life stuff. The small guys are like a tiny group of joined things. I use numbers and pain to study how the tiny water guys help or hurt each other. When the water gets hot, the tiny water things might change and some tiny guys will do good but others will do bad. We have to know this so we can see what the huge water will look like in so many tomorrows. — Kevin Archibald, Postdoctoral Scholar, Responses of plankton to climate change

Do you ever wonder why trees like to have friends? Maybe they help each other! 
My studies focus on how trees next to one another change which ground animals are on the trees bottom sides. By this, I mean to ask if a tree next to their sister tree will have different ground animals from a tree next to another tree who is not in the family. How might this change bigger groups of trees you ask? What about baby trees and where they grow? All great questions! 
You see, ground animals give the trees tree food and trees give ground animals ground animal food. They help each other! — Gabe Runte, Ph.D. Student, Effects of neighbouring trees on one another’s fungal communities

I study tiny things that live on animals and trees. Sometimes the tiny things help the animals and trees, and sometimes they hurt them. I am interested in some tiny things that change between helping and hurting, as different things happen around their animal or tree. The animal or tree then has a problem: does it want to keep the tiny things, or try to lose them? I study how the number of tiny things changes over a short bit of time, and how animals and trees change their relationship to these tiny things over a very long time. — Alexandra Brown, Postdoctoral Scholar, Context-dependent symbiosis

I study how green things work together with living ground. Green things have sun power but need other food; living ground has other food but needs sun power. By sharing, they make friends. Different living grounds have different foods to give, and can also sometimes give water. Some can fight off other, bad living grounds. However, other living grounds can be bad at giving food, or take too much sun power. Green things must avoid them. Also, not all green things can work with all living grounds. And some living grounds can only make friends with some green things. What controls this? How does it change which green things you find outside, and where they are? I want to find out. — Laura Bogar, Postdoctoral Fellow, Tree-ectomycorrhizal mutualisms

I study living things that make food from sun and also from eating other things. I wondered what would happen if it gets hotter or colder in the water where they live?  An idea some people have had is that they will eat more and this could be bad for the air and also the whole world. But if they change to use more sun, maybe it won’t be so bad. I looked at what they ate and how much sun they used for a few years to see if they changed. Some grew better after being hot or cold for a while. So it maybe won’t be as bad as expected. — Michelle Lepori-Bui, Masters Student, Evolutionary responses of mixotrophs to climate change

I use a computer to track the number of animals or other living things over time and how these numbers are changed by other living things (like living things that are food for the animal or that eat the animal) and things that aren’t living. I look at living things that live in water near land. — Raine Detmer, Ph.D. Student, Modeling community ecology of coastal ecosystems

I work on things that share or take things that they can’t make. In this case light food is made inside small cells that can not make light food by themselves. Making light food is hard: it is easier to take the light food things. But how they are able to take the light food things is not well known yet. — Chris Paight, Postdoctoral Scholar, Kleptoplasty and the evolution of acquired photosynthesis

I am showing the world in numbers. One work is showing what change of world (hot) does to animals and greens. Another work is showing how to control problems when growing green food and red food. — Ferdinand Pfab, Postdoctoral Scholar, Mathematical models of corals, pests, and plankton

I am working with tiny tiny living things that use different things for living which can change with the way they are living. I am seeing how they respond to these different things (light, no light, hot, not hot) and see how they grow or change to using all or some of a thing for living and growing. I am interested in seeing the changes inside of the tiny living things over time.  — Ryan Marczak, Technician, Evolutionary responses of mixotrophs to climate change

I use numbers and stuff to show how living water rocks live and die. When the living water rocks die that is very bad. When the water gets hot or bright the living rocks kick out their friends and become sad and maybe die. Some living water rocks don’t kick their friends out as much. Numbers and stuff can give help in understanding why. — Ethan Baxter, Undergraduate Researcher, Mathematical modeling of coral-algal symbiosis

We will be studying the relationships between different living things through roads of putting together said living things. — Tobenna Nwosu, Undergraduate Researcher, Tree-ectomycorrhizal mutualisms