First Advisor

Dr. John Sakulich


Dr. Amy Schreier


Regis College

Degree Name


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access


Plants have a profound influence on global processes, namely through the proliferation of oxygen and fixation of organic carbon through photosynthesis. Terrestrial plants account for 80% of the Earth’s biomass, making them the most dominant form of life. Photosynthetic organisms provide the primary production for almost all ecosystems. Notably, plants support human life by forming the basis of the agricultural system through their capacity to turn sunlight into energy. Additionally, plants remove toxins from the environment and have been shown to improve human mental health. I argue that through researching plant physiology, humans can gain a deeper appreciation for the remarkable power of plants to influence human life and in doing so, strip away the anthropocentric mindset that contributes to the denigration of natural systems. I first walk through the evolutionary history of photosynthesis noting its likely anoxic origins around hydrothermal vents and the advent of photosystem II which is able to split apart water producing O2 as a biproduct and oxygenating the atmosphere. I then examine the mechanisms of the three plant photosynthetic pathways. Finally, I analyze the ways in which humans can utilize plants to optimize efficiency in agriculture, improve human habitats and connect humans to the natural world.

Date of Award

Spring 2021

Location (Creation)

Colorado (state); Denver (county); Denver (inhabited place)

Rights Statement

All content in this Collection is owned by and subject to the exclusive control of Regis University and the authors of the materials. It is available only for research purposes and may not be used in violation of copyright laws or for unlawful purposes. The materials may not be downloaded in whole or in part without permission of the copyright holder or as otherwise authorized in the “fair use” standards of the U.S. copyright laws and regulations.