Undergraduate Research

Leaf size number tradeoffThe leaf size/number trade-off in herbaceous angiosperms (Advisor: Lonnie Aarssen, Queen’s University; Journal of Plant Ecology):  In this study, we examined the extent to which between-species leaf size variation relates to variation in the intensity of leaf production in herbaceous angiosperms. Leaf size variation has been most commonly interpreted in terms of biomechanical constraints (e.g. affected by plant size limitations) or in terms of direct adaptation associated with leaf size effects in optimizing important physiological functions of individual leaves along environmental gradients (e.g. involving temperature and moisture). An additional interpretation is explored here, where adaptation may be more directly associated with the number of leaves produced and where relatively small leaf size then results as a trade-off of high ‘leafing intensity’—i.e. number of leaves produced per unit plant body size.

LCA DiagramLife cycle assessment of corn stover production for cellulosic ethanol in Quebec (Advisor: Joann Whalen, McGill University; Canadian Journal of Soil Science):  The province of Quebec had a target of 5% ethanol (EtOH) content in fuel by 2012, which means the province would require about 400 million L of ethanol per year based on current consumption. Current research is focused on ‘‘second generation biofuels’’ such as cellulosic EtOH, which can be produced from agricultural by- products like corn stover. Our life cycle assessment (LCA) evaluates the ‘‘cradle to gate’’ impact of corn stover feedstock production for cellulosic EtOH production in three corn-producing regions in Quebec for two impact categories: energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts. Scaling-up results from the modelled system suggests that 100% of Quebec’s EtOH targets could technically be supplied using corn stover feedstock, but this may come at the expense of GHG emissions and soil health.

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