The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

June 29, 2013

Sage ecological wisdom From the Sagebrush

Aspiring biologist took an MSU class project and ran with it

(Continued)

But Ruhland was impressed by the data set gathered by the students and approached Dyslin about following up on the group’s findings by employing some new instrumentation to gauge how much sunlight actually gets into a plant. The student jumped at the chance.

(As an aside, the aromatic shrub provides food and habitat for wildlife, was used by Indians for a variety of medicinal purposes and is the state flower of Nevada).

Ruhland said the practical application of such research has implications relating to how plants in general respond to increasing amounts of ultraviolet light reaching the Earth’s surface.

Plant exposure to ultraviolet light varies according to elevations. Most plant life will exhibit sunscreen-blocking characteristics to ensure their survival.

The study authors concluded that plant adaptation is one of the many codes of evolution, and the sage used in the study has adapted well to its various elevations because it has “learned” to evolve in its environmental constraints.

Ruhland said Dyslin diligently delved into the data that had been collected, analyzing it and making further measurements. Ruhland said the strong and conclusive results he achieved propelled him to present his findings at a host of conferences.

The article he co-wrote with Ruhland and Krenz was to appear in an issue of the Journal of Arid Environments.

Though that may literally be dry reading for most people, Dyslin hopes such exposure, combined with his research conference presentations, might eventually help him land his dream job as a field biologist.

“I think it gives me a huge advantage over someone who just comes out of college with a piece of paper.”

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