Brandon Peterson

Mentor: Dr. Jeremy Lichstein
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
"I got involved with research because I had a strong desire to start applying what I've learned in the classroom to real-world problems."


Computer Engineering; Math



Research Interests

  • Mathematical Modeling
  • Robotics
  • Mobile App Development

Academic Awards

  • University Scholars Program
  • UF President's Honor Roll
  • UF URAP Symposium Best Poster
  • Florida Bright Futures


  • Mathematics Tutor at UF Teaching Center
  • UF Robotics Club
  • UF Skim/Surf Club


  • Miracle League Baseball
  • American Cancer Society
  • American Heart Association

Hobbies and Interests

  • UF Intramurals
  • Baseball
  • Film
  • Video Editing

Research Description

Effects of Photosynthetic and Structural Leaf Mass on Plant Competitive Ability

An important question in ecology and plant physiology is how leaf functional traits, such as leaf mass per area (LMA), relate to plant life-history strategies. LMA, a trait that depends on the thickness and density of leaf tissues, is correlated with other plant functional traits, including a negative correlation with photosynthesis per-unit leaf mass and a positive correlation with leaf lifespan (LL) (Wright et al. 2004, Nature, 428:821-827). However, there is limited understanding of the mechanisms that relate LMA to the life-history strategies of plants, such as whether a species is fast-growing and short-lived (deemed "early-successional'') or slow-growing and long-lived ("late-successional''). One way to gain a clearer understanding of how LMA relates to plant successional strategies is to recognize that LMA is a composite trait, reflecting the mass per area of multiple types of tissue (Poorter et al. 2009, New Phytologist, 182:565-588). We focus on two separate components of LMA: photosynthetic tissue, which contributes solely to photosynthesis, and structural tissue, which contributes to the longevity of leaves (LL). We analyze a mathematical model of competition between plant species that differ in their investments to these two components to determine the optimal LMA components of early-successional and late-successional plants. We hypothesize that (i) the LMA of the most competitive early-successional species will be dominated by photosynthetic rather than structural tissue, and (ii) the LMA of the most competitive late-successional species will be dominated by structural rather than photosynthetic tissue.