Biology Research

Beginning with the natural systems of plants, we will study the ways in which solar panels can present an analog for studying the impacts of plant structure on light capture by leaves. The ability to monitor electrical output from solar panels is a perfect opportunity to perform novel investigations into how the shape, size and position of leaves influences their ability to absorb light energy, integrated over the course of the day and throughout the seasons. With this project, we will calculate to what extent total potential energy gain is determined by the physical dimensions of leaves under a range of climate conditions. To the extent that the “leaf” component is interchangeable, students in EEB 4276 and EEB 3203 could evaluate effects of substituting different leaf shapes at a given position in the tree. One of the significant outcomes will be informal STEAM education focused on photosynthesis and energy conversion.