Juan Manuel Drack defended his thesis on cement pollution and cactus morphology

Juan with our colleague Jimena Dorado after the defense.

Last Monday, 13 March, 2017, Juan defended his undergraduate thesis on the morphological response of a cactus to cement dust pollution. The thesis examiners agreed in that Juan had done a great job in this project, producing interesting results that are relevant for our understanding of how human activities are influencing natural species and ecosystems. Bravo Juan!

Here’s the story of Juan’s thesis project. While helping me with my bee work in the field, he noticed that the individuals of the cactus Tephrocactus aoracanthus around a cement factory presented some unusual features: longer and more numerous spines, thicker cladodia (stems). His research project was an attempt to understand whether these morphological features were related to the cement dust produced by the factory. In a series of field observational and experimental studies, Juan was able to show that this cactus species does in fact respond to cement dust deposition by growing larger and spinier. We have just submitted this work for publication in an international journal, so stay tuned for more news on this project.

This is a drawing that our colleague Cecilia Scoones kindly prepared for us as a graphical abstract for the journal publication of the thesis. It illustrates the essence of Juan’s results: cacti in the proximity of the cement factory grown larger and spinier cacti growing far from the factory. Thanks Cecilia for sharing your superb art with us!

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Posted in lab members, theses

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