Paid summer research on the effect of climate change on plant reproduction and physiology at the Missouri Botanical Garden


Drs. Matt Austin and Adam Smith are excited to recruit a participant for the summer 2024 session of Missouri Botanical Garden’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program sponsored by the National Science Foundation. 

Contemporary climate change has already altered many aspects of the natural world, including the timing of reproduction and physiological requirements. Many plants have been observed to shift the timing of their flowering earlier or later in the year as a result of the lengthening of the growing season. Likewise, the density of plant stomata (essentially, “nostrils” on leaves) has declined in some species as atmospheric CO2 levels have risen. However, to date, there has been very little examination of how changes in phenology and stomatal density might change together, and how their covariance is affected by water availability. Stomata are essential for plant physiology since they allow CO2 into the plant and O2 out, but they also are a key avenue for loss of water due to evapotranspiration. Thus, in water-stressed environments, stomata densities may decline due to increased availability of CO2 and limited water.

In this project, the participant will work with Drs. Austin and Smith to assess the relationship between stomatal densities and water availability. The participant will use herbarium specimens collected across the past 150 yr to assess changes in stomatal densities.  Depending on the availability of facilities, the participant may also conduct a greenhouse experiment manipulating water for the same species examined in the herbarium, to assess plasticity in stomatal densities. It is possible for the student participating in this project to receive co-authorship on a publication resulting from this work.

All REU participants will receive a stipend and housing, and will engage in a small group of other REU participants doing research projects on plants at the Garden. For more information and to apply, please see the Missouri Botanical Garden’s REU website. Applications are due February 28th, 2024.