Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Dale Miller

Second Advisor

Stephanie Mayer

Third Advisor

Franck Vernerey


I have studied the forms of mycorrhizae and xerophytes to gain inspiration for a water system upgrade. This process of emulating natural forms and strategies is called biomimicry. The U.S. Forest Service is in the preliminary stages of an upgrade for an aging water system at the Prospector Campground in the White River National Forest. Forest Service engineers and designers will use my research as they redesign this system.

I looked at over twenty plants to find adaptations that helped manage water efficiently. I chose to study mycorrhizae and xerophytes because of their wide range and prevalence.

Mycorrhiza is a symbiotic relationship between fungi and plants. Mycorrhizae are successful water absorbers because of their extensive surface area and ability to alter osmotic gradients. A branched system with appendages decreasing in size will increase the amount of water absorbed. A well built with these principles would increase water available to campers.

Xerophytes are plants that thrive in low water environments. This is facilitated by many adaptations. A thick, waxy cuticle and small, low-density stomata reduce evaporation. Shedding of foliage saves water in times of drought. I suggest installing aerators with lower water flow on the spigots throughout the campground to reduce water use.