Research Projects 2018-2020

Impacts of climate changes on a native and an invasive Hawaiian plant using a newly developed Intelligent Plant growing System (IPS)

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Camilo Mora
Co-INVESTIGATORS: A Zachary Trimble, Kasey Barton
Graduate Trainee: Devon DeBevoise

Small cups hold hundreds of plant specimen within a chamber, while a robotic arm sequentially adds water.
Intelligent Plant growing System in action.

Plants sustain humanity, directly providing food, fiber, fuel, and oxygen, and are the foundation for some of the most diverse habitats in the world. In coastal areas, plants also prevent erosion and run-off, which is often detrimental to marine ecosystems. Despite the key role of plants in the functionality of our planet, considerable uncertainty remains about how plants will respond to the interaction of the multiple and simultaneous climatic changes that are occurring (e.g., the planet is getting warmer, drier in some places and wetter in others, has more anthropogenic CO2, etc.). This knowledge gap is critical to improve climate projections but also for identifying the species likely to endure incoming climate change and that will be responsible for feeding humanity. Unfortunately, overcoming this uncertainty requires factorial experiments that are humanly intractable. The PIs of this proposal have developed an affordable Intelligent Plant Growing System (IPS) that uses automation technology to precisely control climatic conditions, making possible to do large factorial experiments to assess the viability of plants under multiple co-occurring climatic changes. The information of these experiments could be further expanded to assess areas of the planet where climatic conditions will remain viable for the species studied.