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Plant Biology: Understanding Plant Life

Plant biology is the science that is dedicated to the study of plants. Plant scientists dedicate themselves to understanding the many aspects of how plants make their living (survive and reproduce). Questions such as - How do plants get their food to grow? How do plants survive when it is cold? How do plants react when pathogens (germs) attack and cause disease? How can we help the plant produce more and better food for people? The Role Of Plants These questions are very important because plants are the main source of nutrition for animals, including us. Without them, animal life would not...

Plant Diseases: What I Study

I find plants fascinating because they can produce their own food directly from sunlight: plants do photosynthesis to convert light and carbon dioxide from the sun into chemical energy in the form of sugar. Plants also need to capture water from the roots to do that, and oxygen is released during the process. Photosynthesis then maintains oxygen levels in the environment necessary for life on Earth. Also, since plants are sessile, meaning they cannot walk or run, they are at the mercy of the environment. They face pathogens and nasty environmental conditions and must fight against them. How...

Susana Alvarado: Personal Story

I am from Guatemala, a small Central American country. Because of its location in the tropics and its rugged terrain, it harbors many ecosystems with distinct microclimates and unique species in a very small area. In Guatemala, you may drive from the capital city, which is at 1500 meters above sea level, to the beach and find that the view out the window changes drastically in a matter of a few hours: it starts with pine forests which are gradually replaced by oaks, then by dry shrub lands, and as you get closer to the coast, you can see it all change again into a wet tropical forest! Growing...

Eco-hydrology: Tracking Water Cycle

There is a limited amount of water on Earth. It does not stay still in one place or form, but rather, it goes around and around in what is called the water cycle. As it moves around the globe, water can be in different forms: liquid, gaseous or solid. The water you see today in a river was previously stored in the soil or deep in the ground before it came out to the surface, forming a spring. That same water will flow downhill until it reaches another river or lake and eventually it will flow into the ocean. At some point in its history, that same water was taken up by the roots of plants and...

Evapotranspiration: What I Study

I study the process by which water returns from the surface of the Earth to the atmosphere in the form of vapor. This process is called evapotranspiration. Without it, water would not cycle around the globe! It includes the evaporation of water from all surfaces, for example a lake, ocean or the top of the soil. It also includes transpiration, which is the process by which plants return the water they take from the soil to the atmosphere through tiny pores in their leaves. Because water vapor is a gas, it is harder to measure it compared to water in its liquid form. For example, if you wanted...

Susana Alvarado

Susana Alvarado

I am an eco-hydrologist which means that I study how ecosystems and their components interact with the water cycle. For example, I might measure sap flowing in a tree to estimate how much water it drinks during a day or year, which is easier said than done.


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