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Third Prize, Advancing Plant Sciences Award - First Place High School
HS-PLT35

A Prickly Project

Plant Science
Ella Walsh

Grade:
11
Teacher:
Elyse Wexler

The unique carbon fixation process of Tucson’s Opuntia engelmannii (Texas prickly pear) offers reduction to the ever-rising carbon dioxide atmospheric levels; however, the variability among texas prickly pears’ CO2 fixation capabilities remains unknown. Since the oxalate (C2O42-) reserves in Opuntia engelmannii are directly converted from CO2 extracted from the atmosphere, a process of oxalate quantification is needed to address this possible variability. This research constructed and optimized a multistep procedure of manual extraction, chemical isolation of oxalic acid, and an oxalic acid-sodium hydroxide titration. This process provides a great foundation for future investigation of a possible correlation between environmental conditions – such as location, atmospheric conditions, plant health, etc. – and oxalate concentration in texas prickly pear. Certain environmental conditions can then be fostered by individuals to allow prickly pear to maximize oxalate concentrations and by extension maximize CO2 fixation.


Project presentation

View Project Presentation file

Lab journal excerpts

View Lab Journal file

Research paper

View Research Paper file

3 thoughts on “A Prickly Project

  1. Research projects concerning local opuntia plants are vital for species survival. Way to think and act locally for your sarsef project!

  2. Extremely well done! You clearly demonstrated your understanding of organization, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills all while presenting your data/information in a concise manner. Also, the figures were well thought out and very easy to follow!

    As for you attached lab notebook, it too was very well simplified and organized. These types of skills are what is necessary to pursue and thrive in a rigorous environment.

    Studying the carbon fixation process, especially within prickly pears, is a such a fascinating area with a lot of important implications! Their use of the CAM pathway is so efficient and could potentially hold many keys to our problems. They could possibly provide so much insight into further understanding how to apply the knowledge of the biogeochemical cycle to water-efficient adaptations and even sustainable agriculture practices.

  3. Congratulations to this accomplishment in SARSEF! Your project titled “A Prickly Project: Extracting and quantifying oxalate concentrations in Opuntia engelmannii” developed to “optimize a multistep procedure of manual extraction, chemical isolation of oxalic acid, and an oxalic acid-sodium hydroxide titration”. This marvelous accomplishment is just one step on your journey as a young scientist. You overcame many obstacles and your ability to relentlessly search for solutions to real problems and find innovative ways to improve the methods in science is the key to this success and many to come. This research could give us information to understand process in life until today unknow as it is the carbon fixation process. This experience gives you a chance to explore your dreams of leadership, creativity, and future research. Continuo with your hard work and passion in science for a much better world. Thank you.

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