Aramati Casper

Profile

  • Time Zone
    Mountain

  • Organization
    Colorado State University, Mountain Studies Institute

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

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    Broadly, my research interests encompass questions about plant ecology, as well as about how people learn about ecology and biology. In both cases I am also interested in the broader social-ecological context where both of these processes happen. My current plant ecology research focuses on planted seedling survival in forest settings. I have a long-term limber pine planting project in the Central Rocky Mountains, as well as a small collaborative citizen science project applying my planting methods to help homeowners plant effective windbreaks. This research deals with fundamental plant functions including water balance, heat stress, photosynthesis, and nutrient uptake. My large-scale planting study is a small part of a project working to develop forest resilience in the face of insect and plant disease outbreaks.

    My education research focuses broadly on student conceptual development. I am particularly interested in how authentic learning (things real scientists do), such as research-based experiences in the classroom help student conceptual development. In my dissertation research I found that senior undergraduate natural resource management students struggled to develop a conception of ecosystems that included humans if they defined an ecosystem as “natural.” In the same context, I also found that the guest speakers that students identified as influential used the strategies of a) explicitly storytelling, b) connecting material to their personal experiences, c) drawing on emotions, and d) embedding content material within an example case.

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

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    I love limber pines. They are one of my main study species, and I think they are fascinating. Limber pines are highly stress tolerant, and they tend to grow where other trees can’t in the Rocky Mountains. While some refer to them as high elevation pines, they also can grow in low elevation and very dry sites. Trees in these high stress environments tend to grow very slowly and have gnarled, wind-shaped forms. They have very hard wood, and can live for many thousands of years. The oldest tree I’ve had in my research was nearly 900 years old. It was amazing to think about all of the changes the tree had lived through.

  • Profile Question 2
    What is the coolest thing you have discovered or learned about plants?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
    I love the flexibility and variability in plant physiology. I particularly find the way some long-lived pines, including limber and bristlecone pines, have “compartmentalized” vascular systems. That means that their vascular systems are more like continuous straws with few to no connections between them, rather than a lot of connectivity between the straws. This means that even if one part of the tree dies, the rest of the tree stays alive! Because these pines tend to live in dry, high elevation sites, this dead wood usually doesn’t start to decompose. In part due to these characteristics, limber pines can live up to at least 1800 years old, and the oldest known bristlecone pine was nearly 5,000 years old! Since these trees grow in high stress conditions they grow very slowly, which produces very hard hood. The lack of moisture and hard wood makes decomposition slow or non-existent in dry, which means that in some areas trees that died 2,000 years ago are still around! These long-dead trees are one of the sources of data for the long-term tree ring record. When combined with living trees, these trees give us information about historical climate in an area.

  • Profile Question 3
    What lessons have you learned in your career about how science works?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    I have learned a lot about the importance of collaboration and interdisciplinary work in science. I think a lot of people think of scientists as working alone in the field or in the lab. However, science is a highly collaborative endeavor. I spend a lot of time talking to other scientists to develop research ideas, solidify research methods, and analyze and publish data. I have also learned that regardless of the location of your field research – whether it is a mountain meadow miles from the nearest road, or a classroom full of students – unexpected things will happen! It is important to try to think about things that might go wrong when designing research, but also to be prepared for the unexpected while carrying out research.

  • Capacity: How many teams at a time are you comfortable working with?
    2

Recent Posts

Project 9 2018 Aramati Casper
said

I wanted to check in and see how your project is going. Do you have any updates?

Project 9 2018 Aramati Casper
said

How is your project going? What did you plant? What has happened so far?

Project 9 2018 Aramati Casper
said

Hi! What did you plant? What research questions are you working on answering? Has your project led to any new questions or data for your research question?

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