What?s in the Tank? A Study of Tank Bromeliad Microbe Interactions


Walter Woodside

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Tank bromeliads are epiphytic plants that make their home on the trunks and along the branches of trees in the tropics. Their leaf rosettes form tanks that catch and hold water and falling detritus, creating homes and providing water and food for insects, animals, and bacteria. Instead of having conventional roots to absorb water and nutrients, these bromeliads absorb resources through specialized pores in the leaf bases that form the tanks. The bacterial association within bromeliad tanks has not been well researched. To investigate the bacterial colonization and influence on the tank bromeliad Werauhia gladioliflora , I developed and used a sterilization protocol to reduce the bacterial occupants within the tank. Furthermore, I manipulated the tanks of several sterilized and unsterilized bromeliads to create environments of varying levels of acidity to observe the ability of the bromeliad to maintain its natural tank pH. While the bulk of my data remains in samples that require further genetic analysis, my preliminary results indicate that bacteria may influence the pH level of bromeliad tanks. A previous study has shown that the natural microbial diversity of a tank tends to be lower when the natural pH is low. By artificially lowering the pH of the tanks for several weeks, I expect that the microbial diversity will have followed the same downward trend.


Gretchen North and Beth Braker




Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Science Education Grant

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