Ally Kruper (center) with the research team at the Ordway Field Station.

Ally Kruper ’21
Sammamish, Wash.
Environmental studies with an emphasis in biology

Macalester’s location in the Twin Cities has been essential in making this research experience so great.

Does metabolism control how plant species survive and expand their range in Minnesota? To answer this question, Jean Pengra, my student research partner, and I conducted a comparison study between Rhamnus cathartica (Buckthorn), a non-native shrub, and Prunus serotina (Black Cherry), a shrub native to North America. We chose these two because Buckthorn is an invasive species and Black Cherry is native, meaning that variations between the two have important implications for ecosystems—especially as Buckthorn continues to expand its range in North America. This is particularly true with the changing climate, as the species may vary in their ability to acclimate and adapt.

Macalester’s location in the Twin Cities has been essential in making this research experience so great. We spend the vast majority of our time working outside at the college’s Ordway Field Station, located 25 minutes south of St. Paul along the Mississippi River. Most of our equipment is portable, meaning that we are able to work directly with the plants we are analyzing: we use an infrared gas analyzer to quantify how much carbon dioxide the leaf is actively converting into organic compounds for biomass and growth, and a fluorometer to measure the efficiency of leaf photochemistry. That said, there is still plenty of analysis work that we perform indoors, especially on rainy days.

It has been absolutely amazing living here for the summer with my fellow research students. We are all passionate about biology and the environment, and it creates a great atmosphere of shared interests and lively debates. Living together for the summer has also given me the opportunity to get to know these incredible people in a relatively short amount of time, and to enjoy the benefits of city life on the weekends.

This has honestly been one of my favorite experiences at Macalester thus far, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has even the tiniest inkling that they might want to work outdoors or in any sort of environmental work. The fact the I could have this experience as an undergrad is thanks to Macalester’s small size and commitment to funding undergraduate research.

December 2 2019

Back to top