Faculty Advisor

Mark Potosnak


Isoprene is a biogenic volatile organic compound that is emitted by various plant species and plays an important role in the chemistry of the atmosphere. When it reacts with pollutants in the air, such as nitrogen oxides, the precursor to ozone (O3) is formed. In this experiment, we measured leaf emissions from 20 different oak species at the Morton Arboretum (Lisle, Illinois). The aim was to better understand differences in isoprene emissions across oak species. Since emissions have been found to protect leaves against brief periods of heat stress, we hypothesized that oaks native to areas with greater variations in temperature will have higher isoprene emissions than species native to regions with smaller variations in temperature. This study did not find evidence to support this hypothesis, though it could be due in part to lack of adequate climate data and information about the specific geographical ranges of species. When we continued to analyze the data, we found a positive correlation between isoprene emissions from oaks and actual temperature at the Morton Arboretum on the days that isoprene emissions were measured. This result, however, only looks at the measurements pooled across all species, and does not consider individual species.