On the final day for ChalkTalks, most of the presenters- including myself- focused on ecology in our research. Personally, out of all of the amazing presentations that occurred over the three days, the one that stuck out to me the most was Ali’s talk about her pitcher plants.
She drew three different species of the carnivorous plants on the white board, one was small and wide without a lid to cover the top opening, another was taller and narrower with a lid to cover the opening, and a mix between the two with a medium size and a lid that partially covered the top opening of the pitcher plant. What her lab noticed was that there is a larger and more diverse bacterial population in the short pitcher plant without the lid, and the rainwater that is collected allows the diverse bacteria to thrive. The bacteria living within the plant also breaks down any insect that falls in the pitcher, thus maintaining a commensalistic relationship. In the taller species with the lid, less rainwater enters the pitcher, so less bacteria can thrive in the environment. However, because of this, more of the energy from the insects that become victim to the tall pitcher plant can be obtained instead of it having to share with the bacteria colonies. It is thought that the hybrid species that shares traits with the tall and the short plants houses an environment somewhere in between.
I am eager to hear more about Ali’s findings with her project and to learn more about these intriguing carnivorous plants.