Chinese flowers focus of student’s research on climate change

Robbie Hart, a PhD candidate in biology at UMSL, takes cores for tree-ring analysis from Rhododendron traillianumseen, part of the field work he's currently doing in China's Yunnan Province. (Photo provided by Robbie Hart)

How do flowers in a remote area of China factor into the study of climate change?

Since 2009, Robbie Hart, a PhD candidate in biology at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, has been traveling to China’s Yunnan Province to study how rhododendrons in the region are adapting to global warming.

Hart has inspected more than 10,000 archived flowers at museums and institutions across Europe and the United States, collected from Yunnan Province by 19th and early 20th century explorers.

According to a Christian Science Monitor article, Hart compares the archived specimens with present-day rhododendron samples to see whether rhododendron behavior during the past century reflects changing global weather patterns. He said he wants to find out if flowering plants are adapting their flowering cycles in response to warming global temperatures.

So, how are Yunnan’s rhododendrons responding to climate change? Hart told the Christian Science Monitor that it appears the rhododendrons are being pushed up the mountain in search of cooler temperatures.

Visit Hart’s website to learn more about his thesis.

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