Island Ferns

In summer 2015, I began a project with my lab partner Victoria Lekson in which we compared the foliar water uptake of island and mainland ferns. Our study sites were located in the mainland Santa Monica Mountains and on Santa Cruz Island (one of the northern Channel Islands off the coast of southern California). We hypothesized that island ferns have adapted to take advantage of the heavy fog via increased foliar water uptake. We took our two summer undergraduate students with us to assist with field and laboratory work.

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Undergraduate students Gaby and Shaquetta on fog-laden Santa Cruz Island

On Santa Cruz Island, we stayed at the UC Santa Barbara field station.

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Our team at the UC Reserve Field Station

We used Victoria’s gravimetric analysis to measure foliar water uptake in both island and mainland ferns. We took all of our equipment with us and set up shop in the field station laboratory.

Of course, there was some difficulty in safely transporting the analytical balance, but we took all necessary precautions.

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So far, our study suggests that island ferns take up more water through the leaves than mainland ferns. This is an exciting concept that needs more research to confirm our results and assess the underlying mechanisms.

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