Steven Gougherty


  • Time Zone

  • Organization
    Boston University

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

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    My main research interests relate to how plants acquire and retain nutrients at scales ranging from the level of individual leaves to entire ecosystems. In particular, I study how plant carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus budgets change across environmental gradients such as temperature and precipitation.

  • Profile Question 1
    What is a typical day like for you?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    One of the great things about being a scientist is that two days of work are almost never the same, so it rarely gets boring! I spend a lot of time in the spring and summer outside doing fieldwork which includes measuring carbon dioxide, and collecting plants and soils. As a graduate student I also spend a lot of time reading articles published in peer reviewed journals, writing proposals and articles, and taking classes.

  • 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):
    The root systems of plants are absolutely fascinating and there is so much great research going on related to this topic. One particular thing I have learned about plants is that nearly all plant species have roots that form a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. In this relationship the plant feeds the fungi using carbon that was fixed during the process of photosynthesis and in return the fungi provide the plant with increased access to nutrients and water.

  • Profile Question 3
    What is your favorite plant? Why?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    This is a really tough question, but after giving it a bit of thought my favorite plant has to be Monotropa uniflora or the 'ghost plant'. This plant does not have any chlorophyll and as a result has a ghostly white color instead of being green. Usually plants will get their energy from sunlight using chlorophyll, but the ghost plant has a unique strategy to obtain energy. Belowground the ghost plant will tap into a mycorrhizal network (see my answer to question 2 for more info about mycorrhizal fungi) where plants typically exchange energy for nutrients with fungi. The ghost plant takes advantage of this relationship by taking the energy supplied to the fungi by neighboring trees and uses it for its own growth.

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

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