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Fields of Gold

Plant Prospecting for Precious Metals


Author(s)

Gokhan Hacisalihoglu
Department of Biological Sciences
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
gokhan.h@famu.edu
Courtenay C. Strickland

C. Strickland Consulting
cstrickland@cstricklandconsulting.com

Abstract

Can plants be used to “strike it rich”? In this journal case study, students examine published research on the use of trees to search for, and to perhaps find, buried gold. The case focuses on Eucalyptus trees, the tallest of the flowering evergreen plants, and their capacity for uptake and deposit of gold in leaves. By working through the case, students will develop a better understanding of plant metal uptake, transport, and storage while analyzing and interpreting scientific data. They will examine how a metal in the soil is taken up by plant roots and translocated to the leaves; how trees might be used to prospect for gold; and how to design scientific experiments, evaluate hypotheses, and analyze data. Although specifically developed for a sophomore-level plant morphology course, the case is rich in material that can be easily adapted to other agriculture and plant science classes, especially those covering plant and soil nutrition (e.g., plant anatomy and development, plant physiology, or botany).


Objectives

  • Explain how a metal such as gold in the soil is taken up by plant roots and deposited in the leaves.
  • Define the potential role of trees in exploring and discovering underground gold, thereby increasing understanding of both plant exploration for and phytoremediation of metals.
  • Describe scientific experiments, evaluate a hypothesis, analyze data in STEM areas, and think "outside the box" about plants.
  • Practice the clear communication of research goals and findings to others.
  • Engage in creative thinking and innovative approaches to problem solving.

 


Keywords

Bioaccumulation; gold; phytomining; Eucalyptus; prospecting; exploration; biogeochemical expression; phytoextraction; hyperaccumulation; mineral uptake;

Topical Areas

N/A

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division

Format

PDF

Type / Methods

Directed, Journal Article

Language

English

Subject Headings

Botany / Plant Science  |   Agriculture  |   Biology (General)  |  


Date Posted

12/19/2019

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