Friday, July 19, 2013

SRAP Student Spotlight: Marten Baur and drought research

SRAPer: Marten Baur
Home state: Wyoming
Grade in school: Senior
Plans after high school: Attend a university

Drought is a part of life that citizens of Wyoming understand completely. Because of the huge impact of drought on the Wyoming way of life, many scientists at the University of Wyoming are currently studying droughts and their effects on plants. Marten Baur, a Wyoming high school student, is one of those researchers.

Marten is working with Dr. Brent Ewers in the Botany department at the University of Wyoming for his SRAP project.

“My project helps to understand soil water potential for plants. When plants are in a drought, the soil is dried up,” says Marten. “The water potential is basically water’s ability to move to another area, such as up the plant.”
Marten is working to understand what happens when the soil doesn’t hold much water.
“As the plant is trying to draw up the water, it generates tension and that tension, if the soil is too dry, it will cause the plant to have too much tension and it will cavitate,” says Marten.
When a plant cavitates, it makes it more difficult to get water to the top of the plant.

 “So when soil is wet, it has low negative pressure which is good for the plant,” Marten says. “That means it doesn’t need as much tension to pull the water up and get it to the canopy.”
Although the research Marten is conducting must be precise, he enjoys it.

 “I like being outside, but the science parts are definitely interesting. As tedious as this is, the concepts are cool.”
The research that Marten is conducting is crucial to better understanding droughts and their effects.  His SRAP project will have a large impact on citizens all over the state of Wyoming.

SRAP is a six-week long intensive research program based at the University of Wyoming and sponsored by Wyoming EPSCoR.

By Robin E. Rasmussen and Kali S. McCrackin
Photo by Robin E. Rasmussen

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