Member since: October 29, 2011
I am an associate professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Wyoming. My research interest is the process of photosynthesis at all scales, from the activities of molecules in photosynthetic cells to the global photosynthesis of Earth as a whole.
My specific interest is how photosynthesis responds to change. For example, plants growing outdoors experience dramatic change in light intensity every day as the sun rises and sets. In weak light, photosynthesis is highly efficient and directs 90% of absorbed light toward food production. In strong light, photosynthesis becomes as little as 10% efficient, dissipating absorbed light energy as gentle heat. Reducing efficiency in strong light is one of many adaptive mechanisms that reduce photodamage and bleaching in cells that perform photosynthesis. This and other dynamic adjustments to change help make photosynthesis the most efficient processes known for conversion of solar energy into food and fuel.
My interest in photosynthesis is academic but I want to apply my knowledge to meeting human needs. Earth will ultimately be home to nearly 10 billion people. Current technologies are inadequate to allow a good quality of life for this number of people over the long term. Future needs for food, fuel, waste processing, and management of global climate can be met by photosynthesis if we can learn to use it in new ways now. My goal is to help develop technologies required for large scale algae farms. Specifically, I want to help domesticate algae for improved production of food and renewable liquid fuels.