Background to project
All Year 12 Biology students took part in a research project which started in February 2018, as part of a partnership grant between the Royal Society, the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Essex and Suffolk ONE. Students were asked to plan, conduct and evaluate a biological experiment entitled 'Using thermography to investigate the effect of drought on two crop plants'. All students completed poster presentations and the best 16 were chosen to showcase their work to SLT at the college. The best 8 students subsequently presented to Professor Lawson's research group at the University of Essex.
Four Suffolk ONE Biology students were then selected to present their project work at the Royal Society student conference on 4th December 2018. This involved poster presentations to fellow students from other schools in the UK as well as a showcase event to a number of VIP guests including professors from HE and fellows of the Royal Society.
Abstract of project
The purpose of our project was to evaluate the ability of two important crop plants to withstand drought stress. As human populations continue to grow, demand for food increases, and climate change causes unpredictable environmental fluctuations, it is becoming increasingly important to find suitable crop cultivars to overcome these challenges.
Our project utilised thermography to measure the leaf temperatures of maize and French bean plants grown under either well-watered or drought conditions. Our results suggest that drought has limited impact on maize plants, whereas the leaf temperature of droughted French beans increased by 4.5 oC compared to well-watered plants. We attributed this to stomatal closure, which limits uptake of CO2 with potentially severe impacts on photosynthetic rates and yield. We concluded that maize would be a more suitable crop to grow as climates become dryer and that this may be due to its different photosynthetic mechanism (C4).
George Russell, Lottie Robinson, Matt Lawrence, Rosie Gault (A-level Biology students)
Future work will involve George, Matt, Lottie and Rosie training the current Year 12 Biology cohort in the use of thermal cameras and, thanks to further legacy funding from the Royal Society, the research project will be extended to include molecular techniques supporting the A-level curriculum.