Starting at the beginning of spring semester on Wednesday and Friday mornings, I would head out to the University of California at Irvine’s Extension Center near the Great Park. At this site, I have been working with Dr. Jennifer Funk and her lab technician, Julie Larson, on a project assessing how water availability influences leaf traits and reproductive fitness. So far, we have measured traits such as leaf water potential and photosynthetic rate.


Environmental Science and Policy major Patsornkarn Vorapharuek at UCI Extension Center, where she has been working with the Funk Lab’s Dr. Jennifer Funk and lab technician Julie Larson on assessing how water availability influences leaf traits and reproductive fitness.

I started working with Dr. Funk during the spring of my sophomore year and now as I am approaching graduation, I can say that working out here in the field has been my most memorable experience in the Funk Lab.

We usually make it out to Irvine by 8:30 a.m. and spend four to five hours collecting data and caring for the plants in the experiment. The location of the site makes you feel as though you’re no longer in Southern California. After turning off Irvine Boulevard into the extension center, it seems like I am miles and miles away from any urban development. As you drive through the extension center, the unpaved roads take you right up to the experiment site. From the site, the view you get is of barley fields, trees and the shrubbery hillside. When I am there, I feel as if I’ve momentarily escaped the crazy hustle and bustle of senior year.

I highly value the opportunity that Dr. Funk has given me to be part of this project. I believe that by being able to do hands-on work, I am learning techniques and processes related to studying plants that I would never have received in a classroom setting.


Vorapharuek (back) and Funk Lab Technician Julie Larson (front) at UCI Extension Center’s field site.