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Apple Sunburn and Water Use

Apple Sunburn and Water Use: At the intersection of sustainability and climate change  

Internship Details


Interested in the challenges climate change poses to apple producers in Washington, and what options they have to deal with impacts? Join a collaboration between the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and the Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center and spend time in the field in apple orchards and sharing what you learn through blogs and social media. The selected student will work with Dr. Kalcsits’ team to run a field experiment to determine how air temperature and light affect surface temperature of apples, and the risk of sunburn, which makes the apples less valuable. S/he will also work with Dr. Hall and Dr. Kalcsits to understand the connections between these experimental results and the trade-offs that exist between management options growers have to reduce the risk of sunburn – evaporative cooling and netting. The selected student will work with Dr. Hall to discuss and share insights on these connections, as well as on how climate change may shift them, with an audience of agricultural and natural resource professionals through a series of blog articles.


Desired skills and talents:

  • Interest in management applications of science – the experimental component is focused on understanding the physiological processes related to sunburn in apples. We are looking for a student interested in connecting this understanding to issues of sustainability under a changing climate.
  • Self-starter, independent – The student will be expected to make independent progress, contribute ideas, and reach out to team members as needed to obtain the support they need. Frequent communications with Dr. Hall and Dr. Kalcsits will support their progress.
  • Creative – The intern will have the opportunity to develop creative ideas for sharing the results of their work and of how it informs larger scale questions of trade-offs in sustainability and climate change implications.
  • Interest in agricultural production issues and using science to inform trade-off decisions – The intent of the project is to challenge the student in both the realm of science and in the realm of communicating science results effectively. Interest in both these aspects is necessary to fully take advantage of the experience.

Learning Outcomes

SCIENFITIC LITERACY: The student will gain experience in field work and field instrumentation, data collection and analysis, interpretation and communication of results, and connecting specific tree physiology questions to management decisions and broader societal issues of water use, water scarcity and climate change in the Pacific Northwest.

INFORMATION LITERACY: Through understanding the physiology of apple sunburn, delving into the context of why this matters and how it can affect the sustainability of apple production and the economics of the orchard, and how different factors may change in the future, the student will gain expertise and understanding of tree physiology, climate change impacts on water and high-value production systems, sunburn in apple, and the challenges and effectiveness of different management options.

COMMUNICATION: The student will gain experience communicating existing research related to the connections between sunburn, the challenges of managing sunburn risk sustainably, the impacts of certain management practices on water use (e.g. evaporative cooling), and how these factors might change as the climate changes. They will apply this experience to a series of blog articles on either CSANR’s Perspectives on Sustainability blog and/or They will also apply this experience to writing up their results for a scientific audience.

DEPTH, BREADTH and INTEGRATION OF LEARNING: This project is an exciting opportunity for a student interested in connecting and integrating knowledge across scales, and across the research and application continuum. The student will be challenged to connect the answer to a specific physiological question – how air temperature and light affect apple surface temperature, and therefore sunburn risk – with an understanding of the trade-offs growers face when deciding how to sustainably manage sunburn risk, with regional scale issues of water use, and the complex demands on available water, and how those might change as the climate changes. The student will also be challenged to communicate these connections to an audience of agricultural professionals and researchers through a series of blog articles.