My research project involves studying a particular type of pitcher plant called Sarracenia purpurea. These carnivorous plants have leaves that form pitcher-like structures that are able to collect water. This water, however, hosts a community of microorganisms that digests any prey that falls into these pitchers. The waste excreted by these organisms can then be taken up by the plant.
This research project involves taking trips to various locations where these plants are found. We will be taking samples of the fluid in the pitchers as well as taking clippings of the leaves. The fluid will be studied to see what types of prey the plants are catching, what organisms live in the water, and what enzymes are present. Furthermore, nitrogen analysis will be conducted on the plant’s leaves. So far, we have visited and surveyed about half of the sites we will be sampling from, and we will soon begin sampling and studying these complex plants.
Although these plants may seem simple and uninteresting, there is much more to them than initially meets the eye. Within these plants lives an entire food web, and, even though the interactions within the food web will be studied on a small scale, learning about these interactions can help us understand those that occur at a much larger scale.