Brent Mishler, Professor

Closed (1) Liverwort Diversity Across the Geographical Space: Morphology and Species Diversity

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

Liverworts are small plants that disperse through spores. Despite their small size, they tend to have wide distribution areas, often occurring in different ecosystems. Through this project we aim to understand how the diversity in this group is structured in the geographical space. We are addressing this question (i) at a population level with Asterella californica, a liverwort that occurs throughout California with some populations in Oregon and Baja, and (ii) at a community level with liverworts that occur across North America. For the first component of this project, we will describe and document the morphological diversity of individuals of A. californica collected across its complete range. Then, we will contrast its morphological diversity with environmental data. Additionally, we will use museum specimens to build databases to study the distribution of liverwort species based on niche modelling. This research will help us understand the biology of this group of plants, in particular how dispersal and adaptation might shape the diversity patterns of liverworts at a species level, as well as at a community level.

The student will be involved primarily in the first component of this project. Among the experience that the student will acquire are the preparation of bryophyte herbarium specimens, organizing field collected information into databases, processing field information into matrices that can be used to perform analyses, and recording and photographing microscopy slides. Additionally, students are encouraged to attend the Mishler Lab meetings where a broader range of research is presented and discussed by lab members.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Ixchel González-Ramírez, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: We are looking for a very motivated, detail oriented and disciplined student that has a strong interest in plants. Students must be respectful, willing to communicate, learn, and work as part of a team. Some botanical background and/or coding experience in R language is preferred, but not required. Weekly hours are to be negotiated, but preference will be given to students that can commit for at least 5hr per week. Most of the work will be performed in person, with a few tasks can be done remotely.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Closed (2) The Moss Syntrichia: A Non-vascular Plant with External Water Conduction

Closed. This professor is continuing with Spring 2021 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Fall 2021.

Syntrichia is one of the most species-rich genera of the plant family Pottiaceae and plays important roles in the hydrology of desert and temperate ecosystems. Syntrichia relies on external water conduction for photosynthesis, survival, and reproduction, a condition referred to as ectohydry.
In ectohydric species water is absorbed and lost over the entire surface, thus much of their structure might relate to water conduction. Capillarity spaces, by which water moves and is stored, are abundant in Syntrichia, but the link between function and morphology is complex. Despite much attention on studying internal transport of water and nutrients in a few endohydric mosses, external water fluxes in the much greater diversity of ectohydric species are poorly understood.
This project proposes a new framework to study ectohydric capabilities, that includes three morphological scales and timing of going from completely dehydrated to fully hydrated, using Syntrichia as model system. Characters of interest include: Anatomical (papillae development, hyaline basal cells, and laminar cells), architecture of a single stem (leaf angle, concavity and orientation) and the whole clump features (density of stems). All of these characters will be investigated and quantified using different microscopy techniques, dyes to track water movement, and experimental observation.
The aim of this study is to investigate whether external conduction and storage is the main source of water for Syntrichia and to provide a better understanding of species-specific morphological traits underlying functions of conduction or storage. Better understanding of the roles of mosses and their water relations, in habitats where these plants are dominant, where they form thick ‘buffering’ layers between the substrate and the atmosphere, will lead to better appreciation of their importance for ecosystem services.


Tasks:
(1) Measurements of anatomical and morphological characters using of microscopic slides of Syntrichia (in-person lab).
(2) Design water related experiments in Syntrichia (in-person lab).
(3) Organize data for analysis (remotely).
(4) Creating a repository of images of main morphological characters and taxa of Syntrichia (remotely).
(5) Contribute to the preparation of a scientific paper (remotely).Successful completion of this apprenticeship will provide the student with the following skills:
(1) Identify main species of Syntrichia from western North America.
(2) Describe main morphological characters related to water uptake and storage.
(3) Analyze experimental data, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: 1: Reliable, responsible, and self-motivated 2: Background in botany, 3: Interest in taxonomy of mosses.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Closed (3) Presentation of Scientific Findings

Closed. This professor is continuing with Spring 2021 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Fall 2021.

Even though sound and sufficiently robust data is the essence of a good scientific paper, the presentation of the findings is of equally great importance in communicating discoveries to the scientific community and advancing the overall knowledge in a field. Presenting data in a clear and accurate manner and putting them into context require skills that are best learned by exposure and experience. We will provide an opportunity for exceptional apprentices to be introduced to how we communicate our findings to the scientific community by preparing our work for submission to peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Using the studies already completed in the Mishler Lab, we aim to educate apprentices by involving them in as many of the following steps as possible:

a) organizing, double-checking, preparing and structuring all material used and information obtained in different phases of each project.
b) manuscript development, including a thorough search for and review of scientific and historical references
c) manuscript preparation (including illustrations, figures and tables)
d) deposit of data in public databases
e) organization and backup of all files related to each phase of each study for easy future access
f) other support tasks as assigned

Through this experience, the students will learn how similar or different “real” research papers are from the typical lab reports that they are required to prepare for science classes, and, in addition, will receive training in ethics of reporting the findings. We aim to help the students develop a clear understanding of the process of data preparation for a manuscript and the boundaries in scientific research and publishing, lack of which can, knowingly or unknowingly, result in scientific misconduct such as plagiarism or falsification of data.

Our overall goal is to help our apprentices develop a sense for the breadth and depth of standards that we believe result in high quality scientific publications, and provide them with a better vision for the kind of reporting they are expected to produce in their upper division science courses, and in their future graduate or professional careers.

All majors are welcome to apply. The students will earn URAP units upon satisfactory performance and will be mentioned in the acknowledgment section of the resulting papers., Staff Researcher

Qualifications: - Responsible, reliable, punctual - Interest in science - Excellent organizational skills - Excellent attention to detail - Ability to follow instructions fully and exactly - Ability to formulate and ask questions - Excellent ability to maintain focus while doing repetitive tasks and catch mistakes. Preference for candidates with one or more of the following: - Experience in the R language and environment, or coding in general - Experience in illustration - Experience in layout and design

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated