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Smith Lab News

December 31, 2019: New TRY paper published in Global Change Biology



Today, our paper showing the updated coverage and accessibility of the TRY plant trait database was published. The effort was led by Jens Kattge and the rest of the TRY steering committee. Nick was involved, as part of his data contributions throughout the history of the database. TRY is an unprecedented resource for plant scientists and while there are still some kinks to work out, stands to serve as the best source for plant trait data for many years to come.

The open access article can be found at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/gcb.14904.



November 21, 2019: New paper published in Environmental Research Letters on environmental drivers of GPP



Today, our paper on modeled and measured environmental drivers of gross primary productivity (GPP) was published in ERL. The paper uses measured FLUXNET2015 and TRENDY modeled GPP to show that the positive global effect of temperature on GPP is declining, likely due to an increase in water stress. However, this effect is being counteracted by elevated CO2 and an increase in precipitation in some regions. The work was a fun collaboration between Nick and a group of Chinese colleagues that are long-time collaborators with TTU Biology faculty.

The open access article can be found at: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab57c5/meta.



November 4, 2019: Abigail gets a grant funded!



Today, lab undergraduate Abigail Bell received $400 to support her research on plant salinity tolerance from the Beta Beta Beta Research Foundation. This award will be used to help her identify native grass species that are not only salt tolerant, but may also serve as good forage in restoration sites. Congrats Abigail!!



October 25, 2019: Nick is awarded the Open Access Data Award by the TTU libraries




Nick was honored to be award the TTU Library Open Access Data Award for his contributions and commitment to providing freely accessible data to the scientific community. All of the data can be accessed from the Data page. The most up-to-date datasets can be found on Nick's GitHub page, https://github.com/SmithEcophysLab.



October 21, 2019: New paper published in AoB-Plants on multi-tissue respiratory temperature acclimation




We're happy to announce a new lab publication exploring differences in respiratory temperature acclimation across multiple tissue types: leaves, photosynthetic stems, non-photosynthetic stems, and roots. Using multiple plant types, we find that non-photosynthetic tissues show greater homeostatic respiration rates in response to week-long changes in temperature than photosynthetic tissue. This was due to the fact that photosynthetic capacity increased in photosynthetic tissue, increasing respiratory demand. The results further enhance our understanding of respiratory temperature acclimation at the whole-plant scale and provides a path forward for model development.

The open access article can be found at: https://academic.oup.com/aobpla/advance-article/doi/10.1093/aobpla/plz064/5580060.

The data and analysis scripts can be found at: https://github.com/SmithEcophysLab/tissue_respiration.



October 4, 2019: Nick gives a seminar at the University of Oklahoma










The Fall 2019 Big XII tour continues! Nick visited the Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology at the University of Oklahoma. There, he gave a seminar on plant acclimation (see link to slides below). The trip included a visit to the Kessler field station, where he got to see a ton of great field Biology in action! There were drought and warming experiments, run by Lara Souza's lab, as well as woody encroachment studies being performed by Heather McCarthy's group. It was great meeting with both of them and their awesome labs. Nick also got to visit with Abby Moore's and Xiangming Xiao's group, as well as Scott Russell. The science being done by the faculty and students in MPBIO was very impressive! Hopefully, the trip will lead to future collaborations!!

Nick's seminar can be found here.



September 30, 2019: Nick gives a seminar at UT Austin




Nick visited the Department of Integrative Biology down the road at the University of Texas at Austin. It was great to see old and meet potentially new colleagues. The IB department does a bunch of cool organismal Biology and has a particularly strong botany group. It was fun chatting about Texas biota and beyond with Amy Wolf, Caroline Farrior, Tom Juenger, Larry Gilbert, Keiko Torii, and others. The graduate students, in particular, were impressive, with a nice mix of budding young quantitative and empirical researchers. Looking forward to future collaborations!

Nick's seminar can be found here.



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 here.



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 outfits!



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 here.



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: http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/events/2019/ctsm/.

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 Ecology Letters.

Full citation:

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 2018 Archive. On to a fun, productive, science-filled 2019!



Youngest lab member, Marlo Smith, stares down a Guadalupe Mountain sunrise.