August 13, 2019: Lizz, Helen, Leah, and Nick present at ESA 2019!
Lizz, Helen, and Nick all presented work from the lab at this year's Ecological
Society of America meeting in Louisville, KY. While Leah couldn't attend, her
work on mesquite was also on display (with Nick filling in). There was a great turnout for
each talk and the ideas presented seemed to stimulate a lot of discussion amongst the
meeting participants. As usual, ESA allowed for plenty of fun time as well,
with old colleagues and new, including a giant troll!
Stay tuned for publications of these works that will be coming out soon!
Nick's talk and Leah's poster can be found here.
August 1, 2019: Evan and Risa do some canopy sampling!
Evan and Risa spent a large chunk of the month of July sampling canopy
leaf physiology from a Nitrogen by Sulfur manipulation experiment in upstate New York.
The experiment was developed by Christie Goodale's group at Cornell, who have
been doing ecosystem-scale measurements at the site for many years.
Evan and Risa will be exploring the treatment effects on the leaf physiology,
which will hopefully help to make sense of the ecosystem responses.
Many thanks to Christy and her grad student Dave Frey for help with logistics
and man power (Note Dave's ability to launch the slingshot!).
These folks are a really fun group to work with!
July 31, 2019: Ricky gets a sendoff!
Today, we bid adieu to our Canadian colleague, Ricky Kong.
Ricky spent the summer in the lab looking at drought by nitrogen interactions on
plant physiology, with a focus on drought memory. We really enjoyed having him in lab
and can't wait to see where he takes his career next! Good luck Rick!
July 29, 2019: Risa scopes out a field site
Risa and Nick visited Springlake to assess its suitability for Risa's project
examining albedo of different agricultural species. It looks like the site will work
as it includes many different species and management regimes. Looking forward to the results!
July 23, 2019: Nick presents at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Mathematical Biology
Nick presented the lab's work on theoretical models of acclimation at the
Annual Meeting of the Society of Mathematical Biology. The mini-symposium entitled
"Mathematical models for plants and their interaction with the environment" was organized
by Glenn Ledder (Nebraska) and included talks by Nick, Sabrina Russo (Nebraska), and
Dani Way (Western Ontario). Nick's talk can be found
July 19, 2019: Nick attends Potato Field Day
Nick had a great time meeting producers and researchers at the 2019 Potato
Field Day in Springlake, Texas. Here's to more fruitful collaborations between
the academy and the producers!
July 11, 2019: Nick and Mitej measure potatoes
Nick and Mitej went out to Springlake potatoes in Springlake, Texas to
sample leaves off different cultivars planted by the
Texas A&M Agrilife Potato group.
We were assisted by Sanjeev Gautam (PhD student) and Isabel Vales (PI) on the project.
We hope to find how different cultivars acclimate to heat and drought stress.
July 5, 2019: Nick visits the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab
Last week Nick visited the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory
in beautiful Gothic, Colorado. The purpose of the visit was to check out the site
and facilities and set up collaborations with RMBL and the RMBL scientists
examining climate change at high elevations and along elevational gradients.
While there, Nick was able to check out the famous Harte warming experiment as well
as Aimee Classen's WaRM plots. He even got to help with some NEE measurements!
Additional perks included some great wildlife spotting (e.g., moose, foxes, coyotes, marmots),
a mountain marathon (well 1/3 of one!), and a 4th of July parade in homemade botanical
June 28, 2019: The Smith lab goes underground!
Undergraduate student, Tyler Do, installed soil respiration collars at
our Lubbock NutNet site. He is taking the first soil respiration measurements
at the experiment this week. This is part of our push to examine ecological responses
across scales (individual > population > community > ecosystem).
Tyler is performing the study as part of a month-long intensive summer undergraduate
research course. In a month, he has designed and carried out the experiment and
will be writing it up in a publication-style article. This has included
learning many new pieces of equipment and techniques (along with help
from other lab personnel, namely Ricky Kong). I'm really proud of what Tyler has
accomplished and am looking forward to seeing what he finds!
June 14, 2019: Lizz and Nick present at the 2019
Gordon Research Conference on CO2 Assimilation
Lizz and Nick attended the
2019 Gordon Research Conference on CO2 Assimilation
last week in Newry Maine. Lizz presented her work on leaf-to-whole plant nitrogen
responses. Nick presented a smorgasbord of work related to photosynthetic optimization,
including some of Lizz's postdoc work and Helen's MS work.
The week included a flurry of stimulating talks from folks working on the "dark side"
of photosynthesis. And, it turns out, Maine is beautiful! Although, the Texans felt
they could use a little more spice on their food ;).
A copy of Nick's poster can be found
May 17, 2019: Smith lab folks get degrees!
Today, Angel and Leah received undergraduate degrees in biology and Helen received
her Masters degree in Biotechnology. We'll be sad to see them go, but wish them the
best of luck on their next journey (even though they won't need it!).
May 17, 2019: Angel is nominated for the Earl Camp Award
Angel was nominated for the Earl Camp Award in Biological Sciences. The Earl Camp
Award is the highest honor given to TTU Biology students. While he did not come away
with the top prize, the award nomination in itself is quite the achievement.
May 9, 2019: Nick and Ricky visit a potato farm
Nick and Ricky visited a potato farm in Springlake, TX as part of
a new collaboration with the potato research group at Texas A&M Agrilife.
The Smith Lab, specifically visiting researcher Dinah Borus, will be using the site
to examine physiological processes in different cultivars planted in Springlake.
Similar cultivars will be used as part of a greenhouse study at the TTU campus.
May 2, 2019: Risa wins a research grant!
Risa won a selective TTUAB Grants in Aid grant to support her research
on cover crops this summer. The grant will go towards building a
portable abedometer system. Congrats Risa!!
April 26, 2019: Smith lab folks present their
research at the 10th annual Texas Tech Association of Biological
Scientists Symposium (TTABS)
Evan, Risa, and Leah all presented their research at the Spring's TTABS
Symposium. Evan presented his proposed summer work in Ithaca, New York and
won 2nd place in the proposal category. Risa presented her preliminary work
on cover crop albedo. Leah presented results from her study on the impact
of Mesquite in West Texas rangelands. Great work by all!
April 23, 2019: Lizz announces she'll be joining the faculty at
Northeastern State University
This Fall, Lizz will be heading for greener (literally) pastures.
She will be joining the Department of Natural Sciences as an Assistant
Professor of Biology at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
We are all very excited for her, but will be sad to see her go. She
has been an integral part of the lab as well as the greater Texas Tech community.
Her dedication to training younger students (and older faculty!) will ensure
that her legacy lives on well after she leaves.
Good luck Lizz! Please come
back and visit!
April 16, 2019: Ricky Kong joins the lab for the summer
Ricky Kong arrived this week from the University of Western Ontario.
Ricky is a student of Hugh Henry's at UWO.
At TUU Ricky will be examining leaf physiological responses to drought,
including drought memory. Stay tuned!
April 10, 2019: Aimée Classen visits the lab
This week the lab hosted Aimée Classen
for the weekly Department of Biological Sciences Seminar.
It's amazing how having a great scientist in your midst can stimulate
new ideas and even make you question some of your older ones.
Thanks Aimée for a fun visit!
April 8, 2019: Evan receives a NSF GRFP Honorable Mention!
Evan received an honorable mention for his NSF GRFP proposal to examine
the role of microbial symbionts in influencing biosphere-atmosphere feedbacks
in a future world. While not a full fellowship, an honorable mention is a great
achievement. The award recognizes all the hard work Evan has done
developing a strong proposal for his graduate studies and his potential
as a scientist to make a difference in the world.
March 19, 2019: Helen passes her Masters defense!
Helen successfully defended her Masters thesis on modeling C4 acclimation.
In her thesis, she was able develop and test a theoretical model for C4
photosynthetic acclimation, including acclimation of stomatal and biochemical
processes. This was quite an accomplishment for such a short-term project.
Look forward to the forthcoming publication and for all the cool new science
Helen will be doing at her next stop!
February 17, 2019: Helen Presents a poster at the AAAS Meeting in D.C.!
Helen attended the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Washignton D.C. this week.
She presented a poster over her thesis work in the Environment and Ecology session.
February 13, 2019: Lizz and Risa Return from CTSM and Fort Hays State University!
After a 1200 mile (1930 km) round trip,Lizz and Risa are back from their week at NCAR!
Much was learned about the CTSM and FATES models.
Progress was made on current project, ideas were formed for new projects. And there was lots of snow!
One of the Flatiron Mountains covered in snow in February 2019
Group photo of instructors and students at the NCAR CTSM tutorial
After the tutorial, Lizz traveled to Fort Hays State University in Hays, KS to give a seminar on Carbon assimilation and
Nitrogen Fertilization Accross Scales. It was great for Lizz to be back where she did her masters and meet the newest generation
of Fort Hays Tigers.
Exterior of Albertson Hall, home of the biology department at Fort Hays State Unvierstiy
After her seminar, Lizz gave a lecture on how to be successful when starting college to Keri Maricle's AP Biology class at
Thomas More Prep High School. Keri and Lizz are old lab mates and it was great talking
with the students.
Lizz and Keri Maricle pose for selfies after teaching Ms. Maricle's AP bio class
February 4, 2019: Lizz and Risa learn CTSM!
Lizz and Risa have begun a week-long tutorial to learn how to simulate global
terrestrial ecosystem processes using the Community Terrestrial Systems Model
(CTSM). The tutorial will take place at the National Center for Atmospheric
Research in Boulder, CO. There is an amazing list of speakers.
The rest of the lab is excited to hear what they learn!
Lizz is hoping to use the CTSM to explore the impact of nitrogen on plant
physiological processes across large spatial and temporal scales.
She plans to use her experimental work to provide model improvements.
Risa is interested in simulating the impact of different cover crop species
on biosphere-atmosphere feedbacks. She is interested in how these feedbacks
change with species as well as moisture availability.
More information on the tutorial can be found here:
As an aside, the Smith Lab is actively working on porting the CTSM to our
local HPCC, so that
lab members and folks across the TTU campus can run global experiments. Stay tuned!
January 16, 2019:
The Spring 2019 semester begins
Today is the first day of the Spring semester. This semester Nick will be
teaching Physiological Plant Ecology, an upper-level course for advanced
undergraduates and graduate students. The course will cover a mix of foundational
research in the field as well as some more recent trends. If you are interested in
learning more, please don't hesitate to contact
Nick or check out the course
GitHub repo where
all the course material will be posted.
January 4, 2019:
NEW LAB PUBLICATION!
Nick led a study to examine the drivers of leaf-level photosynthesis,
specifically the maximum rate of Rubisco carboxylation, commonly termed Vcmax.
This rate is important for determining how much carbon plants take up via
photosynthesis. However, Vcmax is known to be quite plastic over space and time,
making it difficult to predict at large spatial and temporal scales.
The authors further developed a theory for predicting optimal rates Vcmax,
with optimization meaning maintenance of maximum carbon uptake at the lowest
cost. The theory was driven by climate and light availability alone.
When tested against a global observational dataset of Vcmax,
the theory did quite well, explaining >60% of the variation in the observations.
The results suggest that light available and biophysical constraints due to climate
determine large scale patterns of Vcmax.
The results also suggested that soil fertility was not a major driver of
Vcmax at these scales, an effect that contrasts with theory implemented in
Earth System Models (ESMs).
The theory is a much simpler representation of acclimation than that
is currently used in ESMs, thus providing a way to simplify these complex models,
improving the reliability of their future predictions.
The study was published online in
Smith, NG, TF Keenan, IC Prentice, H Wang, IJ Wright,
Ü Niinemets, et al. (2019). Global photosynthetic capacity is optimized to the
environment. Ecology Letters. doi: 10.1111/ele.13210.
Comparison of Vcmax as predicted by optimization and observed
in a global dataset. Data are colored by the Koppen climate class
of the site where the data were taken.
January 1, 2019: It was big year for the lab!
Field sites were established, experiments were done, and papers were published.
The lab added many new members and saw others move on to bigger and better things.
Check out all the previous year's new in the
On to a fun, productive, science-filled 2019!
Youngest lab member, Marlo Smith,
stares down a Guadalupe Mountain sunrise.