I study the eco-physiology of plant carbon and water systems. Specifically, I am interested in discovering how plants coordinate photosynthetic and hydraulic processes in response to abiotic stress, such as drought and shade. I work across scales with an emphasis on integrated biological modeling and experimentation. I am currently working on three general sub-topics:
1) Leaves as biological 3D diffusion-reaction systems
Leaves are geometrically complex, yet highly organized, photoreaction systems. Current modeling frameworks, however, limit our ability to examine how leaf 3D geometry affects physical processes such as diffusion of CO2 and water vapor, light penetration, heat transfer, and ultimately photosynthesis. By integrating physical modeling with experimental data collection, we can overcome such limitations. I have developed a finite element model that simultaneously models CO2 diffusion and photosynthesis in a 3D leaf geometry, called LeaFEM. Using microCT scans of over 90 phylogenetically diverse species, we three-dimensionally reconstruct leaf mesophyll cells, air space, and stomata which are used to parameterize LeaFEM. Moreover, we collect gas exchange and spatially-explicit chlorophyll fluorescence data under a range of normal and stress conditions which are also used to parameterize LeaFEM.
2) Leaf surface hydraulics and material properties
3) Ecological and physiological indicators of climate change-related stress for forest conservation