To understand the relationships between living
things, scientists comb the world's ecosystems,
observing, collecting, and analyzing the organisms
they find. One of their goals is to identify new
species of organisms. Only then can they relate
each one to the rest of the earth's family tree.
Classifying organisms is a kind of detective
work. It starts in the field—in this case,
the jungle of Belize—where
scientists make careful notes describing the specimens
they study. In the lab, electron microscopes and
DNA analysis reveal more of the clues that allow
scientists to place each species within a larger
Garwood is working on one group of plants,
the genus Trema. In the jungle of Belize,
she's found two examples from this group of plants.
There are similarities, but there are also differences.
Do the plants belong to one species or two? Here's
what she does to find out: