Michael Alber

Autumn Flowering Wingstem’s Seed Set, Floral Display Size and Flowering Time as an Indicator of Climate Change

April 10, 2021   /  

Name: Michael David Alber
Major: Biology
Advisors: Dr. Jennifer Ison and Dr. Stephenie Strand

Climate change has led to shifts in the phenology of many species. Many flowering plants have shown significant shifts in flowering times. The effects of climate change on the flowering times of fall flowering plants are understudied and not well understood.In order to better understand the effects of climate change, I studied the phenology of the fall-flowering species Verbesina alternifolia. I recorded the seed set and head number of V. alternifolia that flowered either at early, peak, or late flowering times. A greater seed set at different times throughout flowering can lead to shifts in flowering phenology over time.I found no significant difference in either seed set or floral display size between the different flowering times suggesting that V. alternifolia may not be under a selective pressure to flower either earlier or later. My results also demonstrate the research on spring flowering plants cannot be applied to autumn flowering species. Therefore, more research on autumn-flowering phenology is necessary to understand its patterns and connections to climate change.

Michael will be online to field comments on April 16:
10am-noon EDT (Asia: late evening, PST: 6-8am, Africa/Europe: early evening)

23 thoughts on “Autumn Flowering Wingstem’s Seed Set, Floral Display Size and Flowering Time as an Indicator of Climate Change”

  1. Very thorough, quick rundown. Will you continue your study of the Wingstem in different locations? Do you think that would make a significant in your current data?

    1. Thank you for your question! I think that the most beneficial continuation of this study would be to look at Wingstem at the same location and collect data over several years. My hope is that this may be incorporated into the curriculum of a class at the College of Wooster so that data can be collected every year while giving future students experience collecting and interpreting field data.

  2. Hi Mike! This is such an interesting project. I was wondering how much time you spent in the field? Did you like that work? Is field work something you would be interested in incorporating into your career?

    1. Thank you! I spent much of the first semester in the field. From Late August until mid-October I was at Wooster Memorial Park for several hours nearly every day to make observations and collect data. This was one of the most rewarding parts of my project and definitely helped shape my plans for the future career.

  3. Great presentation Mike! I was wondering if you had any information about primary pollinators of V. alternifolia? Could it be possible that there was no difference between early, peak, and late flowering seed set because the primary pollinator(s) are consistently active during the entire flowering season? Following this logic, do you think if climate change were to progress enough, that V. alternifolia would bloom late/early enough that it would impact pollination and therefore seed set?

    1. Thank you for your questions! My study was one of the first conducted on V. alternifolia which while exciting, also means that there is very little known about this species including its pollinators. I also did not collect data on pollination visitation.

      If pollinator activity is consistent throughout the flowering season, I think you would be correct that that would reduce the difference in seed set between early, peak, and late flowering individuals.

      To answer the second part of your question, I think it is possible that if climate change progresses enough it would disrupt pollination and therefore seed set. It is important to note that for a mismatch to occur shifts in the pollinator activity and flowering time due to climate change, the shifts would have to be in different directions (earlier or later) or with different magnitudes.

  4. Super awesome to see your research come together! I know this is a broad question but I’m curious what the most challenging portion of IS was for you?

    1. Thank you! I think the most challenging portion was the writing and revision process. Addressing my writing and its effectiveness many times over was challenging.

  5. Nice job Mike! Glad to see how this all turned out – hopefully it can be continued into the future to see if and how things change.

  6. Great job Mike!! If you working on this system this fall, are there other aspects of phenology you would like to look at?

    1. Thank you! I think the length of the flowering processes among individual plants is an important aspect of phenology that would be interesting to study in the future.

  7. Great job, Michael. What specific question do you feel follow on researchers should look at in the future?

    1. Thank you! I think that understanding how climate change is affecting fall phenology as a whole is understudied and deserves attention from future researchers. A specific question could be is autumn flowering phenology shifting over time earlier or later as the growing season extends?

  8. Congratulations, Mike. So good to see this come to fruition after getting to hear about your process during this year! What was the (digital) process that went into making your chart documenting flowering phases? It looks really nice!

    1. Thank you! I’m excited to hear about your project and process next year! That chart was a challenge, a lot of data wrangling my large data sets using R studio, along with some help from some packages downloaded from the internet to make it more appealing and easy to understand.

  9. Hey Mike super awesome job! I loved your presentation and the way you depicted your data!

  10. Congratulations Mike! This was such a fascinating topic that I have never looked at before. How do you think your research will benefit you in your future career?

  11. Congrats Mike! Such a great presentation! I was wondering what drew you to study the Wingstem Verbesina alternifolia?

  12. Congratulations, Mike, on completing this fascinating Senior I.S.! Thanks for the helpful explanations for non-scientists in your very clear presentation on your local field work, which sheds light on a global phenomenon.

    I wish you every success in your future endeavors!
    –Prof. Palmer

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