Dr. Ruhland's Research Projects

Current research in the Ruhland lab examines the role of ultraviolet radiation and visible light in the process of decomposition. We are particularly interested in how initial leaf chemistry influences decomposition rates of senescent litter, and how concentrations of compounds such as cellulose and lignin change through time. This research is funded by the National Science Foundation through the Division of Environmental Biology.

Palmer Station Research Past projects include the effects of elevated ultraviolet-B radiation (UV-B) associated with ozone depletion and the effects of global warming on vascular plants and terrestrial ecosystems in Antarctica. In the past 50+ y annual air temperatures have increased >2.9 degrees C along the Antarctic Peninsula. This, along with glacial retreat and changing precipitation patterns, allows a unique opportunity to examine plant responses to climate change. I use novel techniques to explain plant responses to environmental change in a physiological context. My research has a strong field component and is often complemented with laboratory and greenhouse studies to elucidate underlying mechanisms.

Another area of my research examines UV-B-absorbing compounds in plant foliage. These sunscreen molecules primarily consist of a group of secondary metabolites called phenylpropanoids and it appears that plants vary widely in their ability to synthesize these compounds. Ongoing research focuses upon identifying and quantifying these compounds, as well as determining their spatial location inside of leaves. The overall aim of this research is to identify what role these "sun-screen" compounds have in protecting plants against potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation.

Dr. Ruhland's Research