Thoughts on the Internship: Hydie Knowles

HOW HAS YOUR COLLEGE TRAINING ASSISTED YOU

I completed a literature review for a research class which required creating a report (Abstract, Background, Methodology, Results, Discussion and Conclusion) and I acquired fieldwork experience through Shedd Aquarium, Archie Carr and Shark Lab internships.

BOTANICAL HIGHLIGHTS

The first few weeks were new and challenging but I soon was able to recognize key characteristics of various flora. I also was surprised to learn that many of the “pretty” plants in most Bahamian yards are influenced by the horticultural trade and are foreign in origin. I now have a few favourite plant species including:

Croton eluteria – I love the silvery hue of this plant and the bark is used to produce Campari.
Chiococca alba – its meristem glows at night!
Coccoloba uvifera: It delivers amazing fruits.

YOUR RESEARCH PROJECT

I’m examining the ecology of epiphytes, which are non-parasitic plants that grow on other plants. I hope to answer questions related to the position of epiphytes found at various forest levels; the densities and sizes found on individual trees; and which species they prefer. I’m observing these plants across three forest level zones: the undergrowth (zone 1), the understory (zone 2) and the canopy (zone 3). These observations coupled with humidity and light infiltration data will help us understand why epiphytes are found at various densities within those relevant layers. I noted that tree species with peeling barks such as Bursera simaruba (Gum Elemi) were less likely to harbour epiphytes.

WHY YOU CHOSE IT

I chose this project out of my mother’s adoration for orchids and other ‘air plants’ and was particularly excited to learn that we have an endemic orchid Encyclia rufa in The Bahamas. I have a new found goal to introduce new endemics to my family’s yard and this species is a great start. I also saw a prevalence of Tillandsia utriculata (Wild Pine), Encyclia rufa and their inflorescences lining the trails. I always have an eye out for the unusual and epiphytes are one of them.

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