Maddy Case


  • Time Zone
    (not set)

  • Organization
    Yale University

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

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    I am a plant ecologist, and my Ph.D. research focuses on how rainfall variability influences vegetation in tropical savannas. Rainfall is tremendously variable - from day to day, season to season, and year to year - and the timing and amount of rainfall through time can have different effects on different types of plants, ultimately determining what an ecosystem looks like. In savannas, systems where trees and grasses coexist together, there's a lot we don't understand about how rainfall variability shapes the relative dominance of one type of plant over another. If rainfall patterns shift so that rainstorms are less frequent and more intense, will we end up seeing more trees or fewer trees growing in savannas? When a savanna goes through a particularly wet or a particularly dry year, how does that change the vegetation? To investigate these questions, I do fieldwork in South African savanna systems such as Kruger National Park, and also work with satellite data and mathematical modeling.

  • Profile Question 1
    When and why did you decide to go into a science career?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    I grew up in Oregon, and during the summers I was fortunate to be able to attend outdoor science camps run by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. When I was 15, I participated in a camp called Botany Research Team, where we traveled to Idaho for 2 weeks and helped scientists from the National Park Service with vegetation surveys. I loved the whole experience - especially the realization that I could have a job that would allow me to combine my love of the outdoors and my enthusiasm for thinking analytically. By the time we drove back to Oregon at the end of the two weeks, I had decided I wanted to be a plant ecologist when I grew up.

  • Profile Question 2
    What is your favorite plant? Why?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
    One of my favorite plants is called lithops - it's a genus of really strange-looking plants that grow in South Africa. They grow in very arid places, they are thick little succulent plants (like cactus, but without spines) and they look remarkably like rocks. One of the most remarkable things about them is the way they are structured - they can grow mostly buried, with just the tops of their bulbous leaves at the surface of the ground, and their top surface is actually translucent, functioning like a window that lets light enter deeper inside the plant. The greenhouse here at Yale has a whole collection of lithops plants and I love to point them out to visitors.

  • Profile Question 3
    What is best about being a scientist?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    It's a job that rewards creativity and curiosity, and gives me opportunities to go to amazing places. I feel so lucky that I get paid to read and think and work on questions that no one has answered yet!

  • Availability
    I am NOT available, please temporarily remove me from the available mentor list

  • Capacity: How many teams at a time are you comfortable working with?

Recent Posts

Fern Down For What Maddy Case

Hi everyone!

Thanks for uploading your photos and filling me in on how the experiment went! It's interesting to see how even over a fairly short time period, you did start seeing really different responses.

The plants with the leaves…

Fern Down For What Maddy Case

Good luck with your experiment! I like that you've written out your question very clearly, and it sounds like you have a clear plan for what happens next. In your hypothesis, I wonder whether you are expecting to find that the plants without…

Fern Down For What Maddy Case

Hi Kaylee and teammates!

That sounds like a fun project idea. You don't say it explicitly here, but it sounds like the questions you're interested in have to do with how necessary both light and leaves are for plants to grow. (Try writing…


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