Featured image: A forest fire burns in the Big Cyprus National Preserve, a disturbance which some trees have been shoring up against for their whole lives. (Courtesy NPS and Christopher Derman)
This week, our show features Kaz Uyehara of Princeton’s Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department. As an expert on plant modeling, Kaz has studied why some forests are especially flammable (like the Pine Barrens near Atlantic City). What evolutionary benefit does a tree gain from being easy to burn? How can we model such a self-destructive trait with game theory?
Kaz also investigates the computerization of plant growth, building trees of all ages into simulations used for long-term climate studies. Are there overarching rules that regulate how plants grow larger and taller, and can we codify them into mathematics that make botanical sense? Writing these into a model would allow us to understand why trees are different shapes and have different behaviors.
The interview starts 45 minutes into the show, but the introduction has science events, English Beat tickets, and more.
Check out these extras below:
- Carnivorous plants have a curious evolutionary history: they get nitrogen and phosphorus from the insects they eat, a trait which evolved separately many times.
- In Nepal, farmers knew that snow leopards and Himalayan wolves were eating livestock, but no one knew it made up a quarter of their diets. Until now.
- February 11th was the International Day for Women and Girls in Science; incidentally, Maryam Mirzakhani recently won the first Fields Medal to go to a woman for her work on Riemann surfaces.
- Researchers from the US Forest Service in South Jersey are using LiDAR to measure the impact of forest fires on tree canopy structure.
As always, the playlist for the show is on WPRB.com or below.