Nathan Hankes

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Plants, Soils, and Climate

Committee Chair(s)

Paul Grossl


Paul Grossl


Bruce Bugbee


Corey Ransom


Symphyotrichum ascendens is a native forb species responsible for selenium poisoning of livestock grazing on mine wastes in the American Intermountain West. While S. ascendens has long been assumed to be a Se accumulator species, this report details the first investigation into its Se uptake, affinity, partitioning, and growth in response to selenate fertilization. The study was performed in a hydroponic growth environment at selenate concentrations of 0.1, 0.25, 0.5, and 1.0 mM selenate. Symphyotrichum ascendens absorbed selenate in percentage concentrations, with the highest tissue concentration of 3.6% Se. Symphyotrichum ascendens exhibited signs of stress, producing 69.2% less biomass at the 1.0 mM Se treatment than in the control. Water use efficiency decreased with increased exposure to selenate while the transpiration stream concentration factor increased.

Also included is a popular audience-style article exploring the impact that S. ascendens has had on an entire rural community, while communicating the scientific principles as they pertain to the ecologic context at large. And finally, this report contains a work of poetry, included in the spirit of academia, acknowledging the joys and wonder of scientific inquiry in a Universe as mystical as our own. As a whole, this report is a commentary on the range of possibilities within the field of science communication while, at the same time, introducing novel findings of an original scientific investigation. The information gleaned within this investigation will serve as a foundational cornerstone for future mine land reclamation efforts as they pertain to S. ascendens.