We Rep STEM aims to promote the work of inspiring people in the STEM community. Today, we’re featuring Zoe Pierrat, an atmospheric science Ph.D. student at UCLA.

Read on to learn more about Zoe and what her work entails, in her own words.

I am a second-year Ph.D. student in Atmospheric Science at UCLA. 

I study interactions between plants and the atmosphere and their role in climate change. When plants perform photosynthesis (i.e., when they grow) they ‘breathe in’ carbon dioxide, thus removing it from the atmosphere. During this growth process the chemical reactions inside the plant cause it to emit light known as “solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence”. 

Zoe’s fieldwork involves climbing towers to install instruments that study plants. Courtesy: Zoe Pierrat.

The plant’s ‘glow’ is not detectable to the human eye, but I work on developing, deploying, and analyzing data from ground-based instruments that can measure the intensity of the glow. This gives us information on how productive the plants are and what factors might be impacting their growth. 

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Right now I am working in Canada’s Boreal forest, which is the Earth’s largest terrestrial carbon sink and one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change. Understanding plant productivity and carbon exchange in this forest are critical to understanding how the area might be impacted by climate change. 

Zoe can be found on Twitter

If you’d like to have your work featured on We Rep STEM, get in touch! We can be reached via email at werepstem@gmail.com.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Minor grammatical edits were made to the original text.

All photos courtesy of Zoe Pierrat.