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Cael Dant


  • Time Zone

  • Gender
    (not set)

  • Organization
    Northwestern University

  • Role
    Scientist Mentor: I will mentor teams of students online

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    My biggest passion within plant science is carnivorous plants. You are probably aware of the Venus flytrap, which uses leaves that snap shut when triggered by touch to capture insects. Have you ever thought about where plants like that came from, though? Additionally, did you know there are dozens of different carnivorous plants, most of which are not related to one another? The ability of a plant to catch and eat prey actually evolved several different times as a means to survive in nutrient-poor soil. All plants need minerals like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to grow and survive, and most plants get these from the soil through their roots. However, carnivorous plants tend to grow in environments with very poor nutrition in the soil—or sometimes with no soil at all! This means that they had to develop another method of acquiring nutrients, and that turned out to be carnivory.

    One carnivorous plant I am interested in is Sarracenia purpurea, or the purple pitcher plant. This plant’s pitcher-shaped leaves collect rainwater, which they use as a means of trapping insects that are enticed by the sugary nectar around the lip of the pitcher. Insects fall into the pitcher and drown in the fluid, after which they are digested by the plant, which absorbs the minerals it needs to survive from their bodies. However, not everything that enters the pitchers dies—there are entire communities of bacteria, protozoa, and even mosquito larvae that live and thrive in the pitcher fluid. I want to know why that is! I am developing an experiment to investigate how the organisms living in the pitchers help the plants absorb nutrients.

  • Profile Question 1
    What is your favorite plant? Why?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    I love weird plants! If it looks bizarre, smells bad, or eats bugs, I probably like it. My favorites are carnivorous plants, but I also love ferns and bryophytes (plants like mosses and liverworts that evolved long before things like flowers and trees).

  • Profile Question 2
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  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
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  • Profile Question 3
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  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
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  • Capacity: How many teams at a time are you comfortable working with?

Recent Posts

The Legendary Lotus Cael Dant

Hey team,

Sorry to get back to you so late, I hope you see this! I really enjoyed working with all of you too. I'm really grateful you were all so engaged with your experiment and I hope you stay interested in plants. You all did a great…

shscasesweeneyaftwspring2024 Starfield Cael Dant

Hi Jack,

Those are great questions and there's no simple answer! Common fertilizers include the elements nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are required for plants to survive, but different plants need them in different proportions…

shscasesweeneyaftwspring2024 Starfield Cael Dant

Hello everyone! Thank you for the updates and I'm sorry to get back to you so late. That's awesome to hear your plants started growing so well. Just to make sure I understand, you're growing corn plants in vermiculite vs. regular potting…


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NSF_Logo.jpg This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant #2010556 and #1502892. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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