Mr. Tyler Gillmen
Academic Department: Biology
Graduation Year: 2011
Living relics of the Apollo 14 lunar mission of 1971 can be found in our area and Biology Pre-professional Senior Tyler Gillmen, who also plays football for Saint Francis, wanted to know more about them. Astronaut Stuart Roosa, a former US Forest Service "smoke jumper," piloted the Apollo 14 orbiter and took the seeds of several species of tree in his PPKs, or Personal Preference Kits. These seeds were germinated and planted by the Forest Service and distributed around the country and world, especially as the country’s bicentennial of 1976 was celebrated.
Two such trees, sycamores (Platanus sp.), are found at the Cambria County Courthouse in Ebensburg and Highland Hall in Hollidaysburg. Many others are listed on the NASA site. Everyone wanted a Moon Tree in 1976, but unfortunately few records were kept and rumors abound about trees that died and were replaced or their location lost. Modern genetic analysis may solve these problems and identify legitimate moon trees. Tyler used PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to analyze the DNA extracted from sample leaves sent to him from around the country and collected locally. According to Tyler, “The ultimate goal of the experiment was to observe non-Mendelian genetics of Sycamore Moon Trees in an attempt to understand possible changes that occurred from their trip to outer space.”