• Question: I am going on a trip to Greenland during the summer and we have to do a science related project, but I'm not sure what to do. I am sorry that this is a difficult question! I was thinking maybe something to do with plants...

    Asked by Joanna to Barbara, Matt, Ravinder, Sophie, Tristan on 16 Mar 2015.
    • Photo: Barbara Shih

      Barbara Shih answered on 16 Mar 2015:

      Awesome that you are going to Greenland! Are you going with school or going with family and thinking about doing a science-related project during your visit? Suitability of project would largely probably dependent on how long you’re there for and where you are going, and what year you’re in. Here are some possible suggestion (I’m not familiar with plant biology or what’s required for science projects though):
      1) If you’re going to the country side, maybe you can record details on grass width/texture/how green they are and compare them to those in UK.
      2) Maybe possible to check the range of fruits/size of fruits in the markets and compare them to ones in UK.
      3) Maybe go around the blocks and check plant diversity (how many different types of plants you can find in a given area).

      I came across this link with some plant projects – maybe you can find something you’re interested/doable in there.

      I had a quick look at “Greenland trekking” to get an idea of what it might be like. Beautiful place, but juduing from the photos, there probably isn’t many plants in most places. If you want to combine the Greenland trip with your project, about the only thing I can think of is below:

      – Count biodiversity or density as you travel. Take a small sample of rock/earth around the area. Do this for multiple areas.
      – Test for soil acidity or pH levels and record soil colour and humidity (maybe have a 3 point scale). Might be able to do this with some universal pH solution or perhaps pH paper if you add some water to it – just test that in UK before you go. There is something called the soil colour chart if you want to have an idea on the colour criteria you might want to record.
      – Record/track the area you go through (maybe use GPS), in case you want to find out the altitude
      – You can perhaps try to extract chlorophyll, but you’d need some alcohol and cooking pan with you. Need to make sure you use the same amount of leaves.
      – Can do the same in UK lake district if you want to have a comparative study

      Note: I have heard of this mobile phone spectrometer that could help you have a more sophisticated measurement for chlorophyll (or whatever other pigment you decide to extract and measure), but I’m not sure about the cost and shipping time. Linking here in case you feel it’s useful. I think you can build your own using the final link below.


      If it doesn’t have to involve Greenland, it would probably make things easier! Maybe extract different pigments by boiling (such as beetroot, spinach, cabbage leaves..etc) . check solubility in water and alcohol (ideally ethanol, but vodka might just do) and attempt to run an elecrophorsis gel to see which molecule are bigger/if there is only 1 band or multiple bands.

    • Photo: Sophie Robinson

      Sophie Robinson answered on 16 Mar 2015:

      Hi Joanna,

      This depends on how long you are going for, what equipment you will have available and what level you are at.

      Here are some ideas though:

      1. Germination is the process by which a seed emerges from the seed coat. Many different variables can effect the process of germination. Try to sprout seeds from different species of plant to see if different species vary in germination time. Are weeds faster germinators than vegetables? Try measuring seeds and then germinating them to see if big seeds sprout at a different rate than small seeds. Try sprouting seeds in different environments to test the effect of different environmental variables on seed germination. Try testing variables like temperature, soil acidity, water content, light or the presence of insects, worms or other plants. You can also cut open seeds to learn about the parts of a seed. By counting the number of cotyledons, you can learn to classify plants as monocots (with one cotyledon) or dicots (with 2 cotyledons)

      2. lobal warming is how scientists describe the gradual warming of our global climate. Scientists think that the trend towards global warming can be attributed to the build up of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere from industrialization. Another problem is deforestation, as we remove plants and trees from the environment to meet a high demand for lumber or by clear cutting fields for farming and urbanization. By removing trees from the earth’s environment, are we changing how greenhouse gasses are processed in the earth’s atmosphere? What effect do trees and plants have on greenhouse gases? You can perform an experiment using miniature greenhouse pickle jars to test the effect of plants on greenhouse gases. Place a plant in one jar, and leave the other jar empty. Place a thermometer in each jar and put the jars in a sunny window. Record the temperatures, which jar is the warmest? Are there other variables you can test?

      3. Trees grow more during the early spring than they do the rest of the year. Because of this period of dormancy, or lack of growth, each year of growth is marked by a line called a tree ring. You can count the number of rings in the cross section of a tree trunk to show how old the tree is. You can also count the number of rings in a stem to see the age of a stem or branch. One way to measure the rate of growth of a tree is to count the number of rings per inch. Trees with high numbers of rings grow very slowly, depositing many tree rings in a small amount of space with little growth in between. Trees with low numbers of rings grow rapidly, with fewer numbers of rings with rapid growth in between. You can often see growth rings at the ends of lumber. Try measuring the rate of growth for different types of lumber from different tree species. Which species of tree grow the fastest? The slowest? What does this mean for the sustainability of lumber as a building material? Which lumber is best to use for the environment?

      The first one will need to be done over a few weeks but the second two can be completed in a couple of days.

      I hope that helps!