MST News: Trip to Arnold Arboretum

The parks of Boston’s “Emerald Necklace” are widely appreciated by tourists and locals looking for fishing, hiking, sailing, or just a beautiful stroll.  But when Division 1 MST visited the Arnold Arboretum, the second largest link in the Emerald Necklace and home to one of the largest living plant collections in the world, they weren’t just looking for a walk in the park — they were looking for science!
In this year’s Div 1 MST course, DRIMAS (Doing Research In Math And Science), students have been learning about the behavior, adaptations, and life cycle of trees and other plants.  They have also practiced making systematic observations and designing experiments in a variety of settings.  The DRIMAS trip to the Arboretum was intended to deepen students’ learning in these areas, and the wonderful Arboretum staff did not disappoint.
The class, escorted by teachers Jon and Nathan, was met at the gates by the Plant Growth Facilities Manager Kea Woodruff.  Kea walked them across the park to the research center while introducing them to the many outdoor experiments being run at the Arboretum.
At the research center, the class was received by graduate student Daniel Buonaiuto, who told them over lunch about a series of experiments designed to reveal the effect of environment on heritable plant traits by growing plants of the same species from seeds taken from different geographic locations.  He then took them to the garden where these experiments were taking place, and students learned about all the variables that had to be carefully controlled to get reliable results, which included weeds, pests, ground cover, plant spacing, and water distribution.
The last leg of their visit was led by Faye Rosin, the Director of Research Facilitation.  She showed them greenhouses full of exotic plants (including one that curled up when it was touched!), and labs in which graduate students used electron microscopes and other sophisticated technology to root out the secrets of plant life.
In spite of the long, chilly walk to and from the Arboretum, everyone agreed that the trip was a great experience and a unique learning opportunity.