It is that time of year again: the course on plant stress for our master students at the University of Antwerp (as I also wrote about previous years).

This year, the practical part got a long-anticipated upgrade. It is now framed within a new course called ‘Plant and soil ecology’, which is thought to the master students in Conservation Ecology and the very new masters on Global Change Ecology. We could now also step away from teaching only about chlorophyll fluorescence as we did the previous years.


The new set-up of the practicum, featuring the fluorometer to measure chlorophyll fluorescence on the left, the pressure bomb in the middle, and our little friend Dualex Scientific+ on the right. 

Now, the practicum is about plant stress in general, and we use it to highlight different ways in which ecologists can measure stress. Students get to try 3 different methods – using the traditional fluorometer I always used, but also a very practical tool called the Dualex Scientific+ that rapidly measures chlorophyll and pigment content in the leaves, and a pressure bomb, that allows them to assess the water status of plants by putting pressure on a leaf till water emerges.


Measuring chlorophyll content with the Dualex Scientific+ in a project on the effect of Urban Heat Islands on non-native plant species in Flanders

The practicum thus now truly reflects the wide range of opportunities ecologists have to get answers to this fundamental question in our field: how happy is this plant? And I truly hope the students find that knowledge inspirational for their future careers as conservation biologists of global change ecologists.

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