30 May 2023

This year the lab completed our second trip to the Guadalupe Mountains to collect plants - part of our project to understand how 50 years of climate change has affected the ecophysiology and genetics of plant populations in this biodiversity hotspot. Following in the footsteps of TTU botanists David Northington and Tony Burgess, twelve members of the Johnson Lab, Schwilk Lab, Smith Lab spent five days at the Pine Springs Campground. We had two main goals for the trip:

  1. Collect plants along an elevational gradient up both sides of the Pine Springs Canyon (6300 feet) - towards Guadalupe Peak (8750 feet) on one side and towards The Bowl (7500 feet). The plants will be used to establish whether plants along the gradient change their water use efficiency and photosynthetic effort.
  2. Collect plants from several endemic and range-restricted species for conservation genetics using Angiosperms353, including Chaetopappa hersheyi (Asteraceae), Salvia summa (Lamiaceae), Penstemon cardinalis (Plantaginaceae) and Philadelphus hitchcockianus (Hydrangeaceae)

The hike to Guadalupe Peak was challenging but most in the group made it to the top and collected plants at the top of Texas! The next day some folks worked the lower elevations while others climbed to The Bowl and collected in the unique pine forest region. On the third day, two students and Dylan Schwilk hiked the Guadalupe Peak trail again, while another group collected along the trail to Smith Spring at lower elevation.

All the while, we worked to process specimens - keying plants to species, pressing them to preserve for herbarium specimens, and scanning live leaf samples for calculations of leaf mass:area ratios.

The trip was funded in part by the TTU Climate Science Center, through its Ensuring Livable Futures program. Madison Bullock, a PhD student in the lab, is overseeing the data analysis for this project and is already working on processing specimens, measuring plant physiology, and extracting DNA for genetic analysis.

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Madison finds her first specimen of Chaetopappa hersheyi The GUMO 2022 field team near Guadalupe Peak, with El Capitan in the background (photo by Justin Rex)
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Undergraduates Jazlyn and Garrison work to press specimens on the Guadalupe Peak trail Salvia farinacea The team works to press and key plants at camp by headlamplight