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Exploring the recalcitrance of peat moss

Project Full Title:

Exploring the recalcitrance of peat moss: implications for future climate change

Project Mentor(s):

Philben,Michael

Project Mentor(s) EMail:

philben@hope.edu

Project Start Date:

5/20/2020

Project End Date:

7/26/2020

Project Description:

This interdisciplinary project will incorporate the fields of Geology, Environmental Science, and Chemistry. The project, however, is specifically housed within the Hope College Department of Geological & Environmental Sciences. Peat bogs collectively store about 33% as much carbon as there is CO2 in the atmosphere. If warming temperatures destabilize this massive carbon pool, it could form a catastrophic positive feedback for climate change. This project will focus on how the biochemistry of Sphagnum (peat moss) contributes to the slow decay rates observed in bogs. Research students will conduct a series of experiments to investigate the structural and environmental factors that determine how rapidly microorganisms can break down moss tissues. This will be combined with biochemical analysis of decomposing peat and moss tissues, investigating the specific role of structural carbohydrates and lignin-like phenolic compounds. Students will gain experience in gain experience in experimental design as well as analytical techniques such as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). This project is open to Hope College students only.

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