Blog Post 2: Characterization and determination of the aggressive growth patterns of Japanese Stiltgrass, Microstegium vimineum, using quantifiable time-lapse photography methodology

When I first started my project, I did not know, specifically, how I wanted to study Japanese stiltgrass using time-lapse. There were a few ideas from discussions with my faculty mentor, Dr. Eric Brenner. They involved either studying the growth of Japanese stiltgrass and using time-lapse to record its growth or doing a competition study between Japanese stiltgrass and another species, like Arabidopsis thaliana, to observe the invasiveness of Japanese stiltgrass. After looking back at the data I already collected on the growth of Japanese stiltgrass and talking to Dr. Brenner, I decided to study the roots that grow from the stolons, or runners, of Japanese stiltgrass. Stolons are the horizontal stems of a plant and they have roots coming out of them to allow for the growth of another plant. I first noticed the roots of the stolons from my past experience of growing Japanese stiltgrass. Later, I hypothesized that the stolons play a role in keeping the plant upright as well as helping it “crawl” and “creep” its way into other territories. I recorded time-lapse movies of the stolon’s growth and its roots and realized that I have to record them at the appropriate stage in its life cycle when there is rapid growth. 

For my project so far, I have done trial runs experimenting with how I should conduct my experiment. At first, I was interested in growing Japanese stiltgrass together and record them using the time-lapse app, Lapse-It. However, through my recording process, I found it difficult to get clear recordings with good enough resolution of the plants to collect high-quality data. One drawback was that I was growing the plants in 16 hour light instead of 24 hour light, which meant that there were periods of dark in my recordings. That made it hard to track my plants because they are in the dark. Another obstacle I encountered when creating my time-lapse movies was that the plants were growing too densely together. After a certain stage, the plants grew so big that it was hard for the camera to distinguish each individual plant. The overlap of the stems and leaves of each individual made it hard to keep track of their movement over time. Therefore, I had to come up with a new method of growing and recording them. I decided to grow my plants in 24 hour light and record them in a different lab space. I currently have some data but I would need to grow more plants and repeat my experiment to get more accurate data. 

I communicated with my mentor, Dr. Brenner, by meeting up with him once every week to talk about my ideas for the project, data that I have collected, new tools that I might need, and the direction of my project. Dr. Brenner gave me enough support to help me move in the right direction but he also allowed me to take ownership of my project and pushed me to come up with ideas on what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it.

The image on the top shows how the plant leaned over (from the right to the left) and grew a root from the stolon to station itself in the adjacent pot. The image on the bottom shows a closer view of the root that grew from the stolon, marked by the arrow on both images.

Blog Post 1: Characterization of the New York City Japanese stiltgrass population structure and determination of its aggressive growth patterns use quantifiable time-lapse photography methodology

For my research project, I will be working with the plant known commonly as Japanese stiltgrass, or Microstegium vimineum. I chose to study this plant because it is an invasive species from Asia found in multiple states in the United State and is threatening the understory of forest edges as well as inside forests. The working title of my research is the “Characterization and determination of the aggressive growth patterns of Japanese Stiltgrass, Microstegium vimineum, using quantifiable time-lapse photography methodology.” I want to study the invasive nature of Japanese stiltgrass in the laboratory to understand and observe how invasive it is and to record the invasion using time-lapse photography. I want to use time-lapse photography to quantify how fast Japanese stiltgrass grows as well as how long it takes for it to outcompete another species. For my experiments, I will be using Arabidopsis thaliana, wildtype-Columbia as the “native” species to observe how Japanese stiltgrass invades the space of another species.

The objective of this project is to better understand the growth and development of Japanese stiltgrass and to examine the behavioral aspect, or the movement, of Japanese stiltgrass during invasion. To achieve the objective, I will grow Japanese stiltgrass in the lab to determine at what developmental stage and with what mechanism Japanese stiltgrass uses to hamper, strangle, and choke out the growth of native plants. This will be done by performing time-lapse competition studies and using the new App, Plant Tracer, to quantify and compare the growth rate of Japanese stiltgrass vs. target species (native species). This project will take another step toward managing Japanese stiltgrass and other invasive species. It will help scientists and conservationists understand the impacts (the good and the bad) that Japanese stiltgrass has on the environment and the “behavior” of the invasive grass to better learn how to properly manage it.