Kansas State University, Department of Biology, Jesse Nippert’s Ecophysiology Lab
I'm a native Nebraskan who grew up loving nature. I was given some plant and insect identification books when I was young; which opened my eyes to the mysteries of biology. This fascination with biology led me to frag home leaves, insects, and rocks.
I spent my time anywhere from caves to forests, but the time I enjoyed most was in prairie. Watching bison graze, fires roar, and grasshoppers fleeing my approaching footsteps made it seem like another world. That’s why becoming a graduate student at Kansas State is such a great opportunity; Konza Prairie is an amazing place to research. It’s home to so many different types of plants and animals….but grasses are the coolest (everybody knows that!). They may not look too amazing at first, but once you look inside, there is a whole other world seldom seen. I hope that I have the opportunity to continue this research and share it with others as my career develops.
Kansas has an unpredictable climate that varies in both precipitation and temperature, which may lead to drought conditions that can negatively impact the plant community. Understanding how dominant grassland species respond to drought can indicate potential changes at larger scales. Dominant grasses are the main food source for grazers, a decline in grasses would be detrimental to cattle and bison alike. My previous research has indicated that grasses may respond differently to water stress because their internal anatomy is framing their physiology.
Current Research Question:
How are dominant grasses able to respond to changes in the environment? More specifically, how does the internal anatomy of a species frame physiological response observed?
Background on Research:
Grasslands are a global biome that have been historically shaped by fire, grazing, and climate variability. Due to intensified agriculture, these areas have typically been heavily disturbed or destroyed. However, the unique topography of the Flint Hills has allowed the region to persist relatively undisturbed.
I measure plant stress response with some really amazing technology. With my equipment, I can measure how much water a plant is losing and how much it is photosynthesizing! Grasses are pretty diverse, so looking at their internal anatomy can tell me how it is photosynthesizing and how it may respond to events like drought. Light microscopes are a great tool to look close at the leaf tissue; while confocal microscopes allow me to look at individual cells of a plant. Thermal cameras are very helpful in determining which plants are drought stressed and to what degree (Ha! Temperature joke!)
Ways to Connect to Seton Bachle:
In-class visits would be possible, but difficult due to scheduling. However, collaborating on a lesson/unit would be great, and I’d be more than willing to answer any questions via email/skype.