Sam Sharpe

Professional Title:

Graduate Student Teaching Assistant

University, Department, Lab, Etc:

Kansas State University, Division of Biology, Ungerer Lab

Grass Blocks

Brief Bio:

As student of evolutionary ecology, I see biology as a way of knowing and observing that gives us incredible tools to describe the world around us and address problems that threaten our biosphere. I have been interested in science for as long as I can remember; I loved hunting for blue-bellied lizards and orange-bellied salamanders in my backyard as a child, and the open house night at the San Francisco Academy of Sciences was my favorite day of the year. As an undergraduate, I majored in Biology at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and did an independent research project on root growth and development in a plant called Arbadopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis). When I decided to go to graduate school, I knew I wanted to do research that brings together genetics, evolutionary biology, and conservation. In my current research, I am comparing drought responses in several species of prairie grass.
Science on Tap

Current Research Question:

How does drought response differ across different species and populations of prairie grasses? What physiological and gene expression changes do we see in grasses as they experience water stress? 

Background on Research:

The survival of individual species and the composition of ecosystems are heavily influenced by drought and other climate factors. As climate change is predicted to bring more frequent and extreme droughts, it is important to understand how different species respond to drought, especially dominant grasses, which heavily influence the dynamics of prairie communities.

Methods Used:

We are doing a greenhouse experiment where different species of grass are germinated and grown in pots. When the plants are big enough, we will begin drought treatment (i.e. not watering). We will be measuring photosynthesis using a device called a Li-Cor Portable Photosynthesis System to look at the effect of drought. We will also take leaf samples throughout the experiment to look at changes in gene expression as the plants experience drought stress. This is done by isolating the RNA from leaves to see what genes are expressed and how many copies of each gene are being made. 

Connecting with Sam Sharpe:

I am willing to talk about my research, applying to graduate school/becoming a scientist, and diversity and inclusion in STEM fields.
  • virtual connection via skype
  • in person visit
  • collaborate on developing a lesson/unit
  • email interaction to answer questions
Let Sunset Zoo’s Behind the Science staff help you connect with Sam Sharpe by emailing