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  • richardmitnick 4:14 pm on May 25, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Global food trade research upends assumptions about how biodiversity fares", , Botany, ,   

    From Michigan State University: “Global food trade research upends assumptions about how biodiversity fares” 

    Michigan State Bloc

    From Michigan State University

    May 12, 2022 [Just now in social media.]
    Sue Nichols

    Examining the complexities of global food trade and the impacts of biodiversity hotspots.


    In this week’s Nature Food, Michigan State University (MSU) researchers find that imports from high-income countries benefit biodiversity in low-income countries.

    The findings fly in the face of conventional wisdoms: that high-income countries harm biodiversity in low-income countries by importing food from them, and yet low-income countries, particularly those with biodiversity hotspots, were increasingly becoming net importers themselves.

    The findings in “International food trade benefits biodiversity and food security in low-income countries” fly in the face of conventional wisdoms: that high-income countries harm biodiversity in low-income countries by importing food from them, and yet low-income countries, particularly those with biodiversity hotspots, were increasingly becoming net importers themselves.

    Two MSU sustainability scholars from the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS) looked at the growing complexities of global food trade for a better understanding of the interactions and impacts of growing food to feed the world and protecting some of the most precious natural resources. Their paper is entitled
    Understanding the interrelationships between food security and biodiversity is essential to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, said CSIS director Jianguo “Jack” Liu, MSU Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability and co-author. “Our work seeks to understand how we can achieve global food security to feed a growing population without sacrificing biodiversity in the telecoupled world.”

    Countries that are growing both in population and wealth demand more food, and often turn to importing foods. Countries that are increasing their food exports, which often means converting their lands to farms or pastures, can find it results in damage to the environment and biodiversity.

    Illinois-grown corn for export.

    Liu and Min Gon Chung, who received his PhD at MSU and now is a postdoctoral researcher at University of California, Merced, examined comprehensive datasets comprising 189 food items across 157 countries during 2000–2018.

    The pair offer suggestions, such has having food prices include costs to biodiversity, and those earnings be used to mitigate the damages to biodiversity. Underscoring all solutions involves countries working together to strike agreements benefiting both coffers and the environment.

    “With increasing the complexity of food trade among countries with and without biodiversity hotspots, more innovative approaches are needed to minimize the negative impacts of global food production and trade on biodiversity in hotspot countries worldwide,” Chung said.

    The work was funded by the National Science Foundation, Michigan AgBioResearch and Sustainable Michigan Endowment Project.

    A related Nature News & Views article has been written by Stuart Pimm at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Michigan State Campus

    Michigan State University is a public research university located in East Lansing, Michigan, United States. Michigan State University was founded in 1855 and became the nation’s first land-grant institution under the Morrill Act of 1862, serving as a model for future land-grant universities.

    The university was founded as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, one of the country’s first institutions of higher education to teach scientific agriculture. After the introduction of the Morrill Act, the college became coeducational and expanded its curriculum beyond agriculture. Today, Michigan State University is one of the largest universities in the United States (in terms of enrollment) and has approximately 634,300 living alumni worldwide.

    U.S. News & World Report ranks its graduate programs the best in the U.S. in elementary teacher’s education, secondary teacher’s education, industrial and organizational psychology, rehabilitation counseling, African history (tied), supply chain logistics and nuclear physics in 2019. Michigan State University pioneered the studies of packaging, hospitality business, supply chain management, and communication sciences. Michigan State University is a member of the Association of American Universities and is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. The university’s campus houses the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, the W. J. Beal Botanical Garden, the Abrams Planetarium, the Wharton Center for Performing Arts, the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, the the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, and the country’s largest residence hall system.


    The university has a long history of academic research and innovation. In 1877, botany professor William J. Beal performed the first documented genetic crosses to produce hybrid corn, which led to increased yields. Michigan State University dairy professor G. Malcolm Trout improved the process for the homogenization of milk in the 1930s, making it more commercially viable. In the 1960s, Michigan State University scientists developed cisplatin, a leading cancer fighting drug, and followed that work with the derivative, carboplatin. Albert Fert, an Adjunct professor at Michigan State University, was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics together with Peter Grünberg.

    Today Michigan State University continues its research with facilities such as the Department of Energy -sponsored Plant Research Laboratory and a particle accelerator called the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory [below]. The Department of Energy Office of Science named Michigan State University as the site for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB). The $730 million facility will attract top researchers from around the world to conduct experiments in basic nuclear science, astrophysics, and applications of isotopes to other fields.

    Michigan State University FRIB [Facility for Rare Isotope Beams] .

    In 2004, scientists at the Cyclotron produced and observed a new isotope of the element germanium, called Ge-60 In that same year, Michigan State University, in consortium with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the government of Brazil, broke ground on the 4.1-meter Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope (SOAR) in the Andes Mountains of Chile.

    The consortium telescope will allow the Physics & Astronomy department to study galaxy formation and origins. Since 1999, MSU has been part of a consortium called the Michigan Life Sciences Corridor, which aims to develop biotechnology research in the State of Michigan. Finally, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences’ Quello Center researches issues of information and communication management.

    The Michigan State University Spartans compete in the NCAA Division I Big Ten Conference. Michigan State Spartans football won the Rose Bowl Game in 1954, 1956, 1988 and 2014, and the university claims a total of six national football championships. Spartans men’s basketball won the NCAA National Championship in 1979 and 2000 and has attained the Final Four eight times since the 1998–1999 season. Spartans ice hockey won NCAA national titles in 1966, 1986 and 2007. The women’s cross country team was named Big Ten champions in 2019. In the fall of 2019, MSU student-athletes posted all-time highs for graduation success rates and federal graduation rates, according to NCAA statistics.

  • richardmitnick 8:57 am on May 22, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Climate Change Has Been Killing Rainforest Trees For Longer Than We Realized", , Atmospheric water stress driven by global warming is to blame for the increase in tropical tree mortality., , Botany, Earth's natural systems have responded to shifts in temperature and atmosphere for longer than we might have realized., , Forests are significant carbon sinks., , More studies are urgently required to better understand the strain that the natural world is under., Other research suggests that a similar increased rate of tree death is happening in the Amazon rainforests., , The signs of the increased death rates go back to the 1980s., The study authors compared the stress that rainforests have experienced to what's been happening to the Great Barrier Reef., , Tree lifespans have halved in the last 35 years. The consequences for the planet could be devastating., Tropical forests may soon become carbon sources.   

    From The University of Oxford (UK) via Science Alert : “Climate Change Has Been Killing Rainforest Trees For Longer Than We Realized” 

    U Oxford bloc

    From The University of Oxford (UK)



    Science Alert

    21 MAY 2022

    Northeast Australia’s relict tropical rainforests. (Alexander Schenkin)

    Scientists have documented a worrying trend in the rainforests of Australia: Tree lifespans have halved in the last 35 years, and it appears to be due to the effects of climate change on the ecosystems.

    With these forests acting as significant carbon sinks, the consequences for the planet could be devastating, creating a feedback loop that’s both caused by global warming and which then contributes to it.

    The signs of the increased death rate go back to the 1980s, suggesting that Earth’s natural systems have responded to shifts in temperature and atmosphere for longer than we might have realized.

    “It was a shock to detect such a marked increase in tree mortality, let alone a trend consistent across the diversity of species and sites we studied,” says ecologist and lead author David Bauman from the University of Oxford in the UK.

    “A sustained doubling of mortality risk would imply the carbon stored in trees returns twice as fast to the atmosphere.”

    Researchers collected more than 70,000 data points from existing records to put together the study, with 24 different forest plots included. The earliest information goes back to 1971, enabling the team to track tree deaths over an extended period.

    Atmospheric water stress driven by global warming is to blame for the increase in tropical tree mortality, the researchers think: The warmer air dries out trees more quickly.

    The study authors compared the stress that rainforests have experienced to what’s been happening to the Great Barrier Reef, another delicately balanced ecosystem that is struggling with higher temperatures.

    “The likely driving factor we identify, the increasing drying power of the atmosphere caused by global warming, suggests similar increases in tree death rates may be occurring across the world’s tropical forests,” says ecologist Yadvinder Malhi from the University of Oxford.

    “If that is the case, tropical forests may soon become carbon sources, and the challenge of limiting global warming well below 2°C becomes both more urgent and more difficult.”

    Other research [Nature]suggests that a similar increased rate of tree death is happening in the Amazon rainforests, too, reducing the amount of carbon that the region is able to pull out of the atmosphere and store. The worry is that these forests will start contributing carbon to the atmosphere rather than taking it out.

    The new study is particularly valuable because it uses a large pool of data gathered over many years – enabling scientists to cut through the noise of such busy and active ecosystems to spot these long-term trends.

    As difficult as it is to put together research projects that last decades, more studies across a similar sort of timescale are urgently required to better understand the strain that the natural world is under.

    “Long-term datasets like this one are very rare and very important for studying forest changes in response to climate change,” says ecologist Susan Laurance from James Cook University in Australia.

    “This is because rainforest trees can have such long lives and also that tree death is not always immediate.”

    The research has been published in Nature.

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Oxford campus

    University of Oxford
    Universitas Oxoniensis

    The University of Oxford [a.k.a. The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford] is a collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s second-oldest university in continuous operation. It grew rapidly from 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris [Université de Paris](FR). After disputes between students and Oxford townsfolk in 1209, some academics fled north-east to Cambridge where they established what became the University of Cambridge (UK). The two English ancient universities share many common features and are jointly referred to as Oxbridge.

    The university is made up of thirty-nine semi-autonomous constituent colleges, six permanent private halls, and a range of academic departments which are organised into four divisions. All the colleges are self-governing institutions within the university, each controlling its own membership and with its own internal structure and activities. All students are members of a college. It does not have a main campus, and its buildings and facilities are scattered throughout the city centre. Undergraduate teaching at Oxford consists of lectures, small-group tutorials at the colleges and halls, seminars, laboratory work and occasionally further tutorials provided by the central university faculties and departments. Postgraduate teaching is provided predominantly centrally.

    Oxford operates the world’s oldest university museum, as well as the largest university press in the world and the largest academic library system nationwide. In the fiscal year ending 31 July 2019, the university had a total income of £2.45 billion, of which £624.8 million was from research grants and contracts.

    Oxford has educated a wide range of notable alumni, including 28 prime ministers of the United Kingdom and many heads of state and government around the world. As of October 2020, 72 Nobel Prize laureates, 3 Fields Medalists, and 6 Turing Award winners have studied, worked, or held visiting fellowships at the University of Oxford, while its alumni have won 160 Olympic medals. Oxford is the home of numerous scholarships, including the Rhodes Scholarship, one of the oldest international graduate scholarship programmes.

    The University of Oxford’s foundation date is unknown. It is known that teaching at Oxford existed in some form as early as 1096, but it is unclear when a university came into being.

    It grew quickly from 1167 when English students returned from The University of Paris-Sorbonne [Université de Paris-Sorbonne](FR). The historian Gerald of Wales lectured to such scholars in 1188, and the first known foreign scholar, Emo of Friesland, arrived in 1190. The head of the university had the title of chancellor from at least 1201, and the masters were recognised as a universitas or corporation in 1231. The university was granted a royal charter in 1248 during the reign of King Henry III.

    The students associated together on the basis of geographical origins, into two ‘nations’, representing the North (northerners or Boreales, who included the English people from north of the River Trent and the Scots) and the South (southerners or Australes, who included English people from south of the Trent, the Irish and the Welsh). In later centuries, geographical origins continued to influence many students’ affiliations when membership of a college or hall became customary in Oxford. In addition, members of many religious orders, including Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites and Augustinians, settled in Oxford in the mid-13th century, gained influence and maintained houses or halls for students. At about the same time, private benefactors established colleges as self-contained scholarly communities. Among the earliest such founders were William of Durham, who in 1249 endowed University College, and John Balliol, father of a future King of Scots; Balliol College bears his name. Another founder, Walter de Merton, a Lord Chancellor of England and afterwards Bishop of Rochester, devised a series of regulations for college life. Merton College thereby became the model for such establishments at Oxford, as well as at the University of Cambridge. Thereafter, an increasing number of students lived in colleges rather than in halls and religious houses.

    In 1333–1334, an attempt by some dissatisfied Oxford scholars to found a new university at Stamford, Lincolnshire, was blocked by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge petitioning King Edward III. Thereafter, until the 1820s, no new universities were allowed to be founded in England, even in London; thus, Oxford and Cambridge had a duopoly, which was unusual in large western European countries.

    The new learning of the Renaissance greatly influenced Oxford from the late 15th century onwards. Among university scholars of the period were William Grocyn, who contributed to the revival of Greek language studies, and John Colet, the noted biblical scholar.

    With the English Reformation and the breaking of communion with the Roman Catholic Church, recusant scholars from Oxford fled to continental Europe, settling especially at he University of Douai. The method of teaching at Oxford was transformed from the medieval scholastic method to Renaissance education, although institutions associated with the university suffered losses of land and revenues. As a centre of learning and scholarship, Oxford’s reputation declined in the Age of Enlightenment; enrollments fell and teaching was neglected.

    In 1636, William Laud, the chancellor and Archbishop of Canterbury, codified the university’s statutes. These, to a large extent, remained its governing regulations until the mid-19th century. Laud was also responsible for the granting of a charter securing privileges for The University Press, and he made significant contributions to the Bodleian Library, the main library of the university. From the beginnings of the Church of England as the established church until 1866, membership of the church was a requirement to receive the BA degree from the university and “dissenters” were only permitted to receive the MA in 1871.

    The university was a centre of the Royalist party during the English Civil War (1642–1649), while the town favoured the opposing Parliamentarian cause. From the mid-18th century onwards, however, the university took little part in political conflicts.

    Wadham College, founded in 1610, was the undergraduate college of Sir Christopher Wren. Wren was part of a brilliant group of experimental scientists at Oxford in the 1650s, the Oxford Philosophical Club, which included Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke. This group held regular meetings at Wadham under the guidance of the college’s Warden, John Wilkins, and the group formed the nucleus that went on to found the Royal Society.

    Before reforms in the early 19th century, the curriculum at Oxford was notoriously narrow and impractical. Sir Spencer Walpole, a historian of contemporary Britain and a senior government official, had not attended any university. He said, “Few medical men, few solicitors, few persons intended for commerce or trade, ever dreamed of passing through a university career.” He quoted the Oxford University Commissioners in 1852 stating: “The education imparted at Oxford was not such as to conduce to the advancement in life of many persons, except those intended for the ministry.” Nevertheless, Walpole argued:

    “Among the many deficiencies attending a university education there was, however, one good thing about it, and that was the education which the undergraduates gave themselves. It was impossible to collect some thousand or twelve hundred of the best young men in England, to give them the opportunity of making acquaintance with one another, and full liberty to live their lives in their own way, without evolving in the best among them, some admirable qualities of loyalty, independence, and self-control. If the average undergraduate carried from University little or no learning, which was of any service to him, he carried from it a knowledge of men and respect for his fellows and himself, a reverence for the past, a code of honour for the present, which could not but be serviceable. He had enjoyed opportunities… of intercourse with men, some of whom were certain to rise to the highest places in the Senate, in the Church, or at the Bar. He might have mixed with them in his sports, in his studies, and perhaps in his debating society; and any associations which he had this formed had been useful to him at the time, and might be a source of satisfaction to him in after life.”

    Out of the students who matriculated in 1840, 65% were sons of professionals (34% were Anglican ministers). After graduation, 87% became professionals (59% as Anglican clergy). Out of the students who matriculated in 1870, 59% were sons of professionals (25% were Anglican ministers). After graduation, 87% became professionals (42% as Anglican clergy).

    M. C. Curthoys and H. S. Jones argue that the rise of organised sport was one of the most remarkable and distinctive features of the history of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was carried over from the athleticism prevalent at the public schools such as Eton, Winchester, Shrewsbury, and Harrow.

    All students, regardless of their chosen area of study, were required to spend (at least) their first year preparing for a first-year examination that was heavily focused on classical languages. Science students found this particularly burdensome and supported a separate science degree with Greek language study removed from their required courses. This concept of a Bachelor of Science had been adopted at other European universities (The University of London (UK) had implemented it in 1860) but an 1880 proposal at Oxford to replace the classical requirement with a modern language (like German or French) was unsuccessful. After considerable internal wrangling over the structure of the arts curriculum, in 1886 the “natural science preliminary” was recognized as a qualifying part of the first year examination.[43]

    At the start of 1914, the university housed about 3,000 undergraduates and about 100 postgraduate students. During the First World War, many undergraduates and fellows joined the armed forces. By 1918 virtually all fellows were in uniform, and the student population in residence was reduced to 12 per cent of the pre-war total. The University Roll of Service records that, in total, 14,792 members of the university served in the war, with 2,716 (18.36%) killed. Not all the members of the university who served in the Great War were on the Allied side; there is a remarkable memorial to members of New College who served in the German armed forces, bearing the inscription, ‘In memory of the men of this college who coming from a foreign land entered into the inheritance of this place and returning fought and died for their country in the war 1914–1918’. During the war years the university buildings became hospitals, cadet schools and military training camps.


    Two parliamentary commissions in 1852 issued recommendations for Oxford and Cambridge. Archibald Campbell Tait, former headmaster of Rugby School, was a key member of the Oxford Commission; he wanted Oxford to follow the German and Scottish model in which the professorship was paramount. The commission’s report envisioned a centralised university run predominantly by professors and faculties, with a much stronger emphasis on research. The professional staff should be strengthened and better paid. For students, restrictions on entry should be dropped, and more opportunities given to poorer families. It called for an enlargement of the curriculum, with honours to be awarded in many new fields. Undergraduate scholarships should be open to all Britons. Graduate fellowships should be opened up to all members of the university. It recommended that fellows be released from an obligation for ordination. Students were to be allowed to save money by boarding in the city, instead of in a college.

    The system of separate honour schools for different subjects began in 1802, with Mathematics and Literae Humaniores. Schools of “Natural Sciences” and “Law, and Modern History” were added in 1853. By 1872, the last of these had split into “Jurisprudence” and “Modern History”. Theology became the sixth honour school. In addition to these B.A. Honours degrees, the postgraduate Bachelor of Civil Law (B.C.L.) was, and still is, offered.

    The mid-19th century saw the impact of the Oxford Movement (1833–1845), led among others by the future Cardinal John Henry Newman. The influence of the reformed model of German universities reached Oxford via key scholars such as Edward Bouverie Pusey, Benjamin Jowett and Max Müller.

    Administrative reforms during the 19th century included the replacement of oral examinations with written entrance tests, greater tolerance for religious dissent, and the establishment of four women’s colleges. Privy Council decisions in the 20th century (e.g. the abolition of compulsory daily worship, dissociation of the Regius Professorship of Hebrew from clerical status, diversion of colleges’ theological bequests to other purposes) loosened the link with traditional belief and practice. Furthermore, although the university’s emphasis had historically been on classical knowledge, its curriculum expanded during the 19th century to include scientific and medical studies. Knowledge of Ancient Greek was required for admission until 1920, and Latin until 1960.

    The University of Oxford began to award doctorates for research in the first third of the 20th century. The first Oxford D.Phil. in mathematics was awarded in 1921.

    The mid-20th century saw many distinguished continental scholars, displaced by Nazism and communism, relocating to Oxford.

    The list of distinguished scholars at the University of Oxford is long and includes many who have made major contributions to politics, the sciences, medicine, and literature. As of October 2020, 72 Nobel laureates and more than 50 world leaders have been affiliated with the University of Oxford.

    To be a member of the university, all students, and most academic staff, must also be a member of a college or hall. There are thirty-nine colleges of the University of Oxford (including Reuben College, planned to admit students in 2021) and six permanent private halls (PPHs), each controlling its membership and with its own internal structure and activities. Not all colleges offer all courses, but they generally cover a broad range of subjects.

    The colleges are:

    All-Souls College
    Balliol College
    Brasenose College
    Christ Church College
    Corpus-Christi College
    Exeter College
    Green-Templeton College
    Harris-Manchester College
    Hertford College
    Jesus College
    Keble College
    Kellogg College
    Linacre College
    Lincoln College
    Magdalen College
    Mansfield College
    Merton College
    New College
    Nuffield College
    Oriel College
    Pembroke College
    Queens College
    Reuben College
    St-Anne’s College
    St-Antony’s College
    St-Catherines College
    St-Cross College
    St-Edmund-Hall College
    St-Hilda’s College
    St-Hughs College
    St-John’s College
    St-Peters College
    Somerville College
    Trinity College
    University College
    Wadham College
    Wolfson College
    Worcester College

    The permanent private halls were founded by different Christian denominations. One difference between a college and a PPH is that whereas colleges are governed by the fellows of the college, the governance of a PPH resides, at least in part, with the corresponding Christian denomination. The six current PPHs are:

    Campion Hall
    Regent’s Park College
    St Benet’s Hall
    St-Stephen’s Hall
    Wycliffe Hall

    The PPHs and colleges join as the Conference of Colleges, which represents the common concerns of the several colleges of the university, to discuss matters of shared interest and to act collectively when necessary, such as in dealings with the central university. The Conference of Colleges was established as a recommendation of the Franks Commission in 1965.

    Teaching members of the colleges (i.e. fellows and tutors) are collectively and familiarly known as dons, although the term is rarely used by the university itself. In addition to residential and dining facilities, the colleges provide social, cultural, and recreational activities for their members. Colleges have responsibility for admitting undergraduates and organising their tuition; for graduates, this responsibility falls upon the departments. There is no common title for the heads of colleges: the titles used include Warden, Provost, Principal, President, Rector, Master and Dean.

    Oxford is regularly ranked within the top 5 universities in the world and is currently ranked first in the world in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, as well as the Forbes’s World University Rankings. It held the number one position in The Times Good University Guide for eleven consecutive years, and the medical school has also maintained first place in the “Clinical, Pre-Clinical & Health” table of The Times Higher Education World University Rankings for the past seven consecutive years. In 2021, it ranked sixth among the universities around the world by SCImago Institutions Rankings. The Times Higher Education has also recognised Oxford as one of the world’s “six super brands” on its World Reputation Rankings, along with The University of California-Berkeley (US), The University of Cambridge (UK), Harvard University (US), The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US), and Stanford University (US). The university is fifth worldwide on the US News ranking. Its Saïd Business School came 13th in the world in The Financial Times Global MBA Ranking.

    Oxford was ranked ninth in the world in 2015 by The Nature Index, which measures the largest contributors to papers published in 82 leading journals. It is ranked fifth best university worldwide and first in Britain for forming CEOs according to The Professional Ranking World Universities, and first in the UK for the quality of its graduates as chosen by the recruiters of the UK’s major companies.

    In the 2018 Complete University Guide, all 38 subjects offered by Oxford rank within the top 10 nationally meaning Oxford was one of only two multi-faculty universities (along with Cambridge) in the UK to have 100% of their subjects in the top 10. Computer Science, Medicine, Philosophy, Politics and Psychology were ranked first in the UK by the guide.

    According to The QS World University Rankings by Subject, the University of Oxford also ranks as number one in the world for four Humanities disciplines: English Language and Literature, Modern Languages, Geography, and History. It also ranks second globally for Anthropology, Archaeology, Law, Medicine, Politics & International Studies, and Psychology.

  • richardmitnick 4:02 pm on May 19, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "For Wetland Plants Sea-Level Rise Stamps Out Benefits of Higher CO2", , Beneficial Effects of Rising CO2 for Plants Disappear Under Flooding 33-Year Field Experiment Reveals, , Botany, Conserving wetlands is critical both to fight climate change and adapt to it., , Plants are aerobic oxygen-breathing organisms and that includes their roots., Plants need oxygen as well as CO2—and wetland plants evolved to get most of their oxygen from air rather than water., , Wetlands across the globe are in danger of drowning from rising seas.   

    From smithsonian.com : “For Wetland Plants Sea-Level Rise Stamps Out Benefits of Higher CO2” 


    From smithsonian.com

    May 18, 2022

    Media Only
    Kristen Goodhue
    (443) 482-2325

    Beneficial Effects of Rising CO2 for Plants Disappear Under Flooding 33-Year Field Experiment Reveals

    Adam Langley, an ecologist at Villanova University, takes soil elevation measurements at the Global Change Research Wetland. Credit: Mikayla Manyin.

    Wetlands across the globe are in danger of drowning from rising seas. But for decades, scientists held out hope that another aspect of climate change—rising carbon dioxide (CO2)—could trigger extra plant growth, enabling coastal wetlands to grow fast enough to outpace sea-level rise. That helpful side effect is disappearing, they discovered in a new study published May 18.

    “Too much water is a stress, an environmental stress, for plant response to high CO2,” said Chunwu Zhu, lead author of the report in Science Advances. Zhu, a biologist with The Chinese Academy of Sciences [中国科学院](CN), conducted the study while on a fellowship with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC).

    Conserving wetlands is critical both to fight climate change and adapt to it. Besides providing habitat, wetlands sequester massive amounts of carbon and protect people from some of climate change’s more extreme effects, such as hurricanes and typhoons.

    “Although they occupy just a fraction of the Earth’s surface, they provide outsized ecosystem services, which are basically benefits to people,” said corresponding author Pat Megonigal, a biogeochemist with SERC. “And we value them partly because, by protecting a relatively small part of the Earth, we can have big positive impacts on the environment.”

    Carbon Dioxide’s Diminishing Returns

    The study took place at SERC’s Global Change Research Wetland, a research site Megonigal runs on the western shore of Maryland. The wetland is home to several futuristic experiments, where scientists simulate the climate of 2100. For this study, the researchers relied on an experiment that started in 1987—currently the world’s longest-running field experiment on how rising CO2 impacts plants. Inside 15 open-top chambers, scientists have been raising CO2 concentrations by an additional 340 parts per million, roughly doubling atmospheric CO2 levels of 1987. Another 15 chambers serve as controls, with no added CO2. The team focused on the 10 chambers with “C3” plants—a group of plants known to respond vigorously to high CO2 that includes roughly 85% of plant species on Earth.

    For about the first two decades of the experiment, plant growth in the higher CO2 chambers flourished. Above ground, plants in the high-CO2 chambers grew on average 25% more than plants in the untreated chambers. The effect was even more powerful underground: High CO2 triggered about 35% more root growth. Root growth is especially critical for wetland survival, as roots help wetlands build soil and keep the foundations growing upward even as seas continue to rise.

    “Even though elevated CO2 contributes to sea-level rise, it also enhanced the marsh’s ability to accrete vertically during the early years of the experiment,” said Don Cahoon, a coauthor and research ecologist, emeritus, with the U.S. Geological Survey.

    But after 2005, the effect declined and vanished. For the past 14 years of data in the study, there was no average difference in plant growth between the high-CO2 and normal chambers.

    “The CO2 effect has always been one of the silver linings of climate change,” said coauthor Adam Langley, an ecologist with Villanova University. “Well, at least plants are going to grow more. But we see here that they didn’t. So the silver lining to me just got a little cloudier.”

    The team examined several possible explanations for the drop-off: precipitation, temperature, the saltiness of the water during growing season or the presence of critical soil nutrients, like nitrogen. Only sea-level rise showed any link to plant growth. Once sea levels at the wetland rose 15 centimeters above where they began in 1987, the benefits of higher CO2 disappeared.

    “In some ways, this is a race,” said Lewis Ziska, a coauthor and plant physiologist at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. “A race between what CO2 can do and what sea level can do.”

    Escaping the Flood

    Sea-level rise can shut down extra growth for a very simple reason. As waters rise, wetlands flood more frequently. Plants need oxygen as well as CO2—and wetland plants evolved to get most of their oxygen from air rather than water.

    “Plants are aerobic, oxygen-breathing organisms,” Megonigal said. “And that includes their roots. And so they’re fundamentally faced with this problem of having their root system in an environment that doesn’t have any oxygen in it.”

    Some wetlands may yet be able to escape drowning. If wetlands cannot rise higher by building soil, migrating inland is another possibility. However, that can only happen if they have enough space. For many communities, allowing room for wetlands to move in would require a shift in how they use and value the land.

    In the meantime, Earth’s climate accountants will need to rethink the planet’s carbon budget. Now that scientists know extra CO2 does not always stimulate wetland growth as much as they thought, how much carbon wetlands can absorb in the coming decades remains even more uncertain.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Smithsonian magazine and smithsonian.com place a Smithsonian lens on the world, looking at the topics and subject matters researched, studied and exhibited by the Smithsonian Institution — science, history, art, popular culture and innovation — and chronicling them every day for our diverse readership.
    The Smithsonian Institution (US) is a trust instrumentality of the United States composed as a group of museums and research centers. It was founded on August 10, 1846, “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge”. The institution is named after its founding donor, British scientist James Smithson. It was originally organized as the “United States National Museum”, but that name ceased to exist as an administrative entity in 1967.

    Termed “the nation’s attic” for its eclectic holdings of 154 million items, the Institution’s 19 museums, 21 libraries, nine research centers, and zoo include historical and architectural landmarks, mostly located in the District of Columbia. Additional facilities are located in Maryland, New York, and Virginia. More than 200 institutions and museums in 45 states, Puerto Rico, and Panama are Smithsonian Affiliates.

    The Institution’s 30 million annual visitors are admitted without charge. Its annual budget is around $1.2 billion, with two-thirds coming from annual federal appropriations. Other funding comes from the Institution’s endowment, private and corporate contributions, membership dues, and earned retail, concession, and licensing revenue. Institution publications include Smithsonian and Air & Space magazines.

    Research centers and programs

    The following is a list of Smithsonian research centers, with their affiliated museum in parentheses:

    Archives of American Art
    California State Railroad Museum
    Carrie Bow Marine Field Station (Natural History Museum)
    Center for Earth and Planetary Studies (Air and Space Museum)
    Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
    Marine Station at Fort Pierce (Natural History Museum)
    Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (National Zoo)
    Museum Conservation Institute
    Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center
    Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the associated Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
    Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (National Zoo)
    Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
    Smithsonian Institution Archives
    Smithsonian Libraries
    Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press
    Smithsonian Latino Center
    Smithsonian Provenance Research Initiative (SPRI)
    Smithsonian Science Education Center
    Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (Panamá)
    Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

    Also of note is the Smithsonian Museum Support Center (MSC), located in Silver Hill, Maryland (Suitland), which is the principal off-site conservation and collections facility for multiple Smithsonian museums, primarily the National Museum of Natural History. The MSC was dedicated in May 1983. The MSC covers 4.5 acres (1.8 ha) of land, with over 500,000 square feet (46,000 m^2) of space, making it one of the largest set of structures in the Smithsonian. It has over 12 miles (19 km) of cabinets, and more than 31 million objects.

  • richardmitnick 8:27 pm on May 18, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A two-step adaptive walk in the wild", , , Botany, , , , , , The MPG Institute for Plant Breeding Research[MPG Institut für Pflanzenzüchtungsforschung](DE)   

    From The MPG Institute for Plant Breeding Research[MPG Institut für Pflanzenzüchtungsforschung](DE): “A two-step adaptive walk in the wild” 

    From The MPG Institute for Plant Breeding Research[MPG Institut für Pflanzenzüchtungsforschung](DE)

    May 18, 2022

    Angela Hancock
    Max Planck Research Group Leader

    Dr Mia von Scheven
    Head of Public Relations and Outreach
    +49 221 5062-670

    New research in plants that colonized the base of an active stratovolcano reveals that two simple molecular steps rewired nutrient transport, enabling adaptation.

    An international team led by Angela Hancock at The MPG Institute for Plant Breeding Research[MPG Institut für Pflanzenzüchtungsforschung](DE) and including scientists from The Victory Project[Associação Projecto Vitó](CV) and Fogo Natural Park (Cape Verde), The University of Nottingham (UK), and The Ruhr-University Bochum [Ruhr-Universität Bochum,](DE) studied a wild thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) population that colonized the base of an active stratovolcano. They found that a two-step molecular process rewired nutrient transport in the population. The findings, published today in the journal Science Advances, reveal an exceptionally clear case of an adaptive walk in a wild population. The discovery has broader implications for evolutionary biology and crop improvement.

    Adapting to a novel soil environment


    Nutrient homeostasis is crucial for proper plant growth and thus central to crop productivity. Pinpointing the genetic changes that allow plants to thrive in novel soil conditions provides insights into this important process. However, given the immense size of a genome, it is challenging to identify the specific functional variants that enable adaptation.

    Members of the research team previously found that wild populations of the molecular model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, commonly referred to as thale cress, colonized the Cape Verde Islands from North Africa and adapted using new mutations that arose after the colonization of the islands. Here, the scientists focus on the thale cress population from Fogo Island, which grows at the base of Pico de Fogo, an active stratovolcano. “We wanted to know: What does it take to live at the base of an active volcano? How did the plants adapt to the volcanic soil of Fogo?”, said Hancock.

    “What we found was surprising,” said Emmanuel Tergemina, first author of the study. “While the plants from Fogo appeared to be healthy in their natural environment, they grew poorly on standard potting soil.” Chemical analysis of Fogo soils showed they were severely depauperate of manganese, an element that is crucial for energy production and proper plant growth. In contrast, leaves from Fogo plants grown on standard potting soil contained high levels of manganese, suggesting the plants had evolved a mechanism to increase manganese uptake.

    Two evolutionary steps to a new adaptive peak

    The scientists used a combination of genetic mapping and evolutionary analysis to discover the molecular steps that allowed the plants to colonize Fogo’s manganese-limited soil.

    In a first evolutionary step, a mutation disrupted the primary iron transport gene (IRT1), eliminating its function. Disruption of this gene in a natural population was striking because this key gene exists intact in all other worldwide populations of the thale cress species – no such disruptions are found elsewhere. Further, the patterns of genetic variation in the IRT1 genomic region suggest that the disrupted version of IRT1 was important in adaptation. Evolutionary reconstruction shows that the mutation swept quickly to fixation across the entire Fogo population so that all Fogo thale cress plants now carry this mutation. Using gene-editing technology (CRISPR-Cas9), the researchers examined the functional effects of IRT1 disruption in Fogo and found that it increases leaf manganese accumulation, which could explain its role in adaptation. However, the loss of the IRT1 transporter came with a cost: it severely reduced leaf iron.

    In a second evolutionary step, the metal transporter gene NRAMP1 was duplicated in multiple parallel events. These duplications spread rapidly so that now nearly all thale cress plants in Fogo carry multiple copies of NRAMP1 in their genomes. These duplications amplify NRAMP1 gene function, increasing iron transport and compensating for the iron deficiency induced by IRT1 disruption. Moreover, the amplification occurred by several independent duplication events across the island population. This was unexpected given the short time since colonization (around 5000 years) and the lack of similar events in other worldwide populations. “The rapid rise in frequency of these duplications together with their beneficial effect on nutrient homeostasis indicates these were important in adaptation”, explained Hancock. “Overall, our results provide an exceptionally clear example of how simple genetic changes can rewire nutrient processing in plants, enabling adaptation to a novel soil environment.”

    Implications for crop improvement

    These results also provide some encouraging news for crop breeding. Traditionally, information about gene function has come from studies of individual mutant lines. However, by using variation that exists in nature, it is possible to uncover more complex multi-step processes that can lead to changes in agriculturally-relevant traits. “The discovery that a simple two-step process alters nutrient transport in this case may offer clues for approaches to improve crops to better fit local soil environments. Moreover, gene disruption and gene amplification, as in the case of IRT1 and NRAMP1 in Fogo, are some of the simplest genetic changes to engineer, which makes them especially exciting because it means that they could be readily transferable to other species,” concluded Tergemina.

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The MPG Institute for Plant Breeding Research was founded in Müncheberg, Germany in 1928 as part of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft. The founding director, Erwin Baur, initiated breeding programmes with fruits and berries, and basic research on Antirrhinum majus and the domestication of lupins. After the Second World War, the institute moved west to Voldagsen, and was relocated to new buildings on the present site in Cologne in 1955.

    The modern era of the Institute began in 1978 with the appointment of Jeff Schell and the development of plant transformation technologies and plant molecular genetics. The focus on molecular genetics was extended in 1980 with the appointment of Heinz Saedler. The appointment in 1983 of Klaus Hahlbrock broadened the expertise of the Institute in the area of plant biochemistry, and the arrival of Francesco Salamini in 1985 added a focus on crop genetics. During the period 1978-1990, the Institute was greatly expanded and new buildings were constructed for the departments led by Schell, Hahlbrock and Salamini, in addition to a new lecture hall and the Max Delbrück Laboratory building that housed independent research groups over a period of 10 years.

    A new generation of directors was appointed from 2000 with the approaching retirements of Klaus Hahlbrock and Jeff Schell. Paul Schulze-Lefert and George Coupland were appointed in 2000 and 2001, respectively, and Maarten Koornneef arrived three years later upon the retirement of Francesco Salamini. The new scientific departments brought a strong focus on utilising model species to understand the regulatory principles and molecular mechanisms underlying selected traits. The longer-term aim is to translate these discoveries to breeding programmes through the development of rational breeding concepts. The arrival of a new generation of Directors also required modernization of the infrastructure. So far, this has involved complete refurbishment of the building that houses the Plant Developmental Biology laboratory (2004), construction of a new guesthouse and library (2005), planning of new buildings for the administration and technical workshops (2009), and a new laboratory building completed in May 2012. The new laboratory building includes a section that links the three scientific departments, offices and the Bioinformatics Research Group.


    Department of Plant Developmental Biology
    Department of Plant Microbe Interactions
    Department of Comparative Development and Genetics
    Department of Chromosome Biology

    MPG Society for the Advancement of Science [MPG Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften e. V.] is a formally independent non-governmental and non-profit association of German research institutes founded in 1911 as the Kaiser Wilhelm Society and renamed the Max Planck Society in 1948 in honor of its former president, theoretical physicist Max Planck. The society is funded by the federal and state governments of Germany as well as other sources.

    According to its primary goal, the MPG Society supports fundamental research in the natural, life and social sciences, the arts and humanities in its 83 (as of January 2014) MPG Institutes. The society has a total staff of approximately 17,000 permanent employees, including 5,470 scientists, plus around 4,600 non-tenured scientists and guests. Society budget for 2015 was about €1.7 billion.

    The MPG Institutes focus on excellence in research. The MPG Society has a world-leading reputation as a science and technology research organization, with 33 Nobel Prizes awarded to their scientists, and is generally regarded as the foremost basic research organization in Europe and the world. In 2013, the Nature Publishing Index placed the MPG institutes fifth worldwide in terms of research published in Nature journals (after Harvard University, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and The National Institutes of Health). In terms of total research volume (unweighted by citations or impact), the Max Planck Society is only outranked by The Chinese Academy of Sciences [中国科学院](CN), The Russian Academy of Sciences [Росси́йская акаде́мия нау́к](RU) and Harvard University. The Thomson Reuters-Science Watch website placed the MPG Society as the second leading research organization worldwide following Harvard University, in terms of the impact of the produced research over science fields.

    The MPG Society and its predecessor Kaiser Wilhelm Society hosted several renowned scientists in their fields, including Otto Hahn, Werner Heisenberg, and Albert Einstein.


    The organization was established in 1911 as the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, or Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft (KWG), a non-governmental research organization named for the then German emperor. The KWG was one of the world’s leading research organizations; its board of directors included scientists like Walther Bothe, Peter Debye, Albert Einstein, and Fritz Haber. In 1946, Otto Hahn assumed the position of President of KWG, and in 1948, the society was renamed the Max Planck Society (MPG) after its former President (1930–37) Max Planck, who died in 1947.

    The MPG Society has a world-leading reputation as a science and technology research organization. In 2006, the Times Higher Education Supplement rankings of non-university research institutions (based on international peer review by academics) placed the MPG Society as No.1 in the world for science research, and No.3 in technology research (behind AT&T Corporation and The DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory.

    The domain mpg.de attracted at least 1.7 million visitors annually by 2008 according to a Compete.com study.

    MPG Institutes and research groups

    The MPG Society consists of over 80 research institutes. In addition, the society funds a number of Max Planck Research Groups (MPRG) and International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS). The purpose of establishing independent research groups at various universities is to strengthen the required networking between universities and institutes of the Max Planck Society.
    The research units are primarily located across Europe with a few in South Korea and the U.S. In 2007, the Society established its first non-European centre, with an institute on the Jupiter campus of Florida Atlantic University (US) focusing on neuroscience.
    The MPG Institutes operate independently from, though in close cooperation with, the universities, and focus on innovative research which does not fit into the university structure due to their interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary nature or which require resources that cannot be met by the state universities.

    Internally, MPG Institutes are organized into research departments headed by directors such that each MPI has several directors, a position roughly comparable to anything from full professor to department head at a university. Other core members include Junior and Senior Research Fellows.

    In addition, there are several associated institutes:

    International Max Planck Research Schools

    Together with the Association of Universities and other Education Institutions in Germany, the Max Planck Society established numerous International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS) to promote junior scientists:

    • Cologne Graduate School of Ageing Research, Cologne
    • International Max Planck Research School for Intelligent Systems, at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems located in Tübingen and Stuttgart
    • International Max Planck Research School on Adapting Behavior in a Fundamentally Uncertain World (Uncertainty School), at the Max Planck Institutes for Economics, for Human Development, and/or Research on Collective Goods
    • International Max Planck Research School for Analysis, Design and Optimization in Chemical and Biochemical Process Engineering, Magdeburg
    • International Max Planck Research School for Astronomy and Cosmic Physics, Heidelberg at the MPI for Astronomy
    • International Max Planck Research School for Astrophysics, Garching at the MPI for Astrophysics
    • International Max Planck Research School for Complex Surfaces in Material Sciences, Berlin
    • International Max Planck Research School for Computer Science, Saarbrücken
    • International Max Planck Research School for Earth System Modeling, Hamburg
    • International Max Planck Research School for Elementary Particle Physics, Munich, at the MPI for Physics
    • International Max Planck Research School for Environmental, Cellular and Molecular Microbiology, Marburg at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology
    • International Max Planck Research School for Evolutionary Biology, Plön at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology
    • International Max Planck Research School “From Molecules to Organisms”, Tübingen at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology
    • International Max Planck Research School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles, Jena at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry
    • International Max Planck Research School on Gravitational Wave Astronomy, Hannover and Potsdam MPI for Gravitational Physics
    • International Max Planck Research School for Heart and Lung Research, Bad Nauheim at the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research
    • International Max Planck Research School for Infectious Diseases and Immunity, Berlin at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology
    • International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences, Nijmegen
    • International Max Planck Research School for Neurosciences, Göttingen
    • International Max Planck Research School for Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience, Tübingen
    • International Max Planck Research School for Marine Microbiology (MarMic), joint program of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, the University of Bremen, the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, and the Jacobs University Bremen
    • International Max Planck Research School for Maritime Affairs, Hamburg
    • International Max Planck Research School for Molecular and Cellular Biology, Freiburg
    • International Max Planck Research School for Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences, Munich
    • International Max Planck Research School for Molecular Biology, Göttingen
    • International Max Planck Research School for Molecular Cell Biology and Bioengineering, Dresden
    • International Max Planck Research School Molecular Biomedicine, program combined with the ‘Graduate Programm Cell Dynamics And Disease’ at the University of Münster and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine
    • International Max Planck Research School on Multiscale Bio-Systems, Potsdam
    • International Max Planck Research School for Organismal Biology, at the University of Konstanz and the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology
    • International Max Planck Research School on Reactive Structure Analysis for Chemical Reactions (IMPRS RECHARGE), Mülheim an der Ruhr, at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion
    • International Max Planck Research School for Science and Technology of Nano-Systems, Halle at Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics
    • International Max Planck Research School for Solar System Science at the University of Göttingen hosted by MPI for Solar System Research
    • International Max Planck Research School for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Bonn, at the MPI for Radio Astronomy (formerly the International Max Planck Research School for Radio and Infrared Astronomy)
    • International Max Planck Research School for the Social and Political Constitution of the Economy, Cologne
    • International Max Planck Research School for Surface and Interface Engineering in Advanced Materials, Düsseldorf at Max Planck Institute for Iron Research GmbH
    • International Max Planck Research School for Ultrafast Imaging and Structural Dynamics, Hamburg

    Max Planck Schools

    • Max Planck School of Cognition
    • Max Planck School Matter to Life
    • Max Planck School of Photonics

    Max Planck Center

    • The Max Planck Centre for Attosecond Science (MPC-AS), POSTECH Pohang
    • The Max Planck POSTECH Center for Complex Phase Materials, POSTECH Pohang

    Max Planck Institutes

    Among others:
    • Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology of Behavior – caesar, Bonn
    • Max Planck Institute for Aeronomics in Katlenburg-Lindau was renamed to Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in 2004;
    • Max Planck Institute for Biology in Tübingen was closed in 2005;
    • Max Planck Institute for Cell Biology in Ladenburg b. Heidelberg was closed in 2003;
    • Max Planck Institute for Economics in Jena was renamed to the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in 2014;
    • Max Planck Institute for Ionospheric Research in Katlenburg-Lindau was renamed to Max Planck Institute for Aeronomics in 1958;
    • Max Planck Institute for Metals Research, Stuttgart
    • Max Planck Institute of Oceanic Biology in Wilhelmshaven was renamed to Max Planck Institute of Cell Biology in 1968 and moved to Ladenburg 1977;
    • Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research in Munich merged into the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in 2004;
    • Max Planck Institute for Protein and Leather Research in Regensburg moved to Munich 1957 and was united with the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in 1977;
    • Max Planck Institute for Virus Research in Tübingen was renamed as Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in 1985;
    • Max Planck Institute for the Study of the Scientific-Technical World in Starnberg (from 1970 until 1981 (closed)) directed by Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker and Jürgen Habermas.
    • Max Planck Institute for Behavioral Physiology
    • Max Planck Institute of Experimental Endocrinology
    • Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Social Law
    • Max Planck Institute for Physics and Astrophysics
    • Max Planck Research Unit for Enzymology of Protein Folding
    • Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing

  • richardmitnick 11:14 am on May 13, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Taking pray out of spray and Spotify for blossoms", , , Botany, Digital solutions will help citrus farmers reduce use of pesticides.,   

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine : “Taking pray out of spray and Spotify for blossoms” 

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine

    09 May 2022
    Andrew Dunne

    Digital solutions will help citrus farmers reduce use of pesticides. © VitiGroup, 2022.

    Each day, millions of us load fresh fruit and flowers into our shopping baskets. The global trade in cut flowers and citrus fruits together are worth around €30 billion. When it comes to embracing technology, however, these big businesses tend to remain stuck in the past.

    In 2017, serendipity brought Martina Drobná into contact with biologist and entomologist, Dr Bruno Gábel.

    ‘It all started with my mum,’ said Drobná, a Slovakian-based graphic designer and coordinator of the CITRUS-PORT project.

    ‘She told me about her new neighbour in Modra (Slovakia), a brilliant scientist, who was working on ways to help fruit growers predict the disease and pest risk for their crops,’ she said.

    When the two met, Gábel explained how his hand-written calculations had helped local grape growers by forecasting likely disease risk at different times. This meant producers could target spraying when treating their crops and they didn’t need to spray continuously as they had in the past. Drobná was sold.

    Together with IT entrepreneur Roman Korbačka they created a website and app called VitiPort.

    ‘Our aim was to create a decision support system – which could advise growers on whether or when to treat crops,’ she explained. Calling themselves VitiGroup, the trio have since commercialised Vitiport, and have also developed a sister platform, Genimen-port, for apples and pears.

    Lemon squeezy

    Now they are using the same technology to help citrus growers of, for example, lemons, grapefruit and oranges, many of whom are based in Mediterranean countries. Every year, citrus farmers’ crops are threatened by disease and pests such as grey mould, brown rot and black spot fungal disease, as well as orange tortrix and the citrus leafminer.

    ‘In many growing areas we find it’s common to spray every week but that soon becomes a vicious cycle of over-spraying,’ said Drobná. ‘The more you spray, the more the pathogen builds up resistance and the more you then need to spray to control it; it just gets worse and worse.’

    With CitrusPort – which is soon to become operational – the team hopes to challenge conventional wisdom about the importance of spraying by providing timely, user-friendly information about when and how best to treat. Subscribers download an app, find their farm via GPS and from then on, at the start of each week receive an accurate indication of disease risk and advice about treatment.

    Given time, Drobná hopes that CitrusPort can replicate some of the impressive results the team already achieved for grapes and apples. In Champagne, where VitiPort has operated since 2018, targeted information about when to spray has helped decrease pesticide use by 58%.

    They see global potential for CitrusPort with interest already coming in from Australia, the US and Tunisia.

    Spotify for flowers

    Entrepreneur Eric Egberts has a passion for flowers and a 30-year history in the business. One thing that increasingly troubles him are restricted markets and limited consumer choice.

    ‘I used to see all kinds of flowers on my travels and would bring different types home for friends,’ he said. ‘Everyone would always ask, “Where can I get these?” I realised that in most florists, consumer choice was restricted to just the best-sellers such as red roses, pink daisies, white and yellow chrysanthemums,’ said Egberts.

    He likens the problem in the flower industry to the music industry pre-streaming services. ‘Like with music back when we just listened to the radio, with flowers you only ever get the options that the DJ plays,’ he said. ‘But there are so many more options that could be available.’

    His concept is to unlock the hidden gems of the flower world through digital innovation. With his EU-funded FLOURISH project – which comprises growers, wholesalers, and a team of computer scientists – he hopes to do for the flower industry what Spotify has done for music.

    The plan is to increase consumer choice while offering a new route to market for growers.

    Empowered flowers

    His system enables florists to pool their inventories, Egberts explained. Instead of relying on florists to present ready-made bouquets, with Egberts’ innovation consumers are in charge of mixing and matching flowers to suit their moods and desires all via an app.

    ‘Our system can create automatic bouquets based on a variety of consumer preferences, as well as their previous choices, potentially introducing thousands of new varieties to customers,’ he said.

    ‘For the consumer it’s all about tailoring bouquets to suit particular tastes and personalisation. For the growers, it’s about opening access to new markets, but also offering them better insight into where their flowers are going and where they are popular,’ he said.

    From the environmental perspective, the system allows you to choose to have flowers that are produced with a lower carbon footprint or from local growers only. ‘Currently, as a consumer, you have very limited knowledge about any of these factors,’ he said.

    Admittedly, consumer costs would be slightly higher and delivery times slightly longer as different flowers get sourced from different locations. However, Egberts is convinced demand is there for his idea.

    He has already spun-out part of the work through the BloomyPro website and the team now wants a big commercial partner to come on board to provide scale.

    Egberts is passionate about flowers and has big ambitions for the work. ‘Flowers are key to so many important milestones in our lives,’ he said. ‘I want to bring flowers to more people, and I want to be in the cell phone of every person in the world to help do this.’

    Each of these projects were supported by the European Innovation Council (EIC) which helps game-changing innovations to scale up. Follow the link to learn more about the EIC.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 9:31 am on May 6, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A Lidar’s-Eye View of How Forests Are Faring", , , Botany, , , , Success in Yosemite is driving the wider use of lidar surveys to support forest health and wildfire resilience; study wildlife habitats and monitor water resources.   

    From Eos: “A Lidar’s-Eye View of How Forests Are Faring” 

    Eos news bloc

    From Eos



    29 April 2022
    Van R. Kane
    Liz Van Wagtendonk
    Andrew Brenner

    Success in Yosemite is driving the wider use of lidar surveys to support forest health and wildfire resilience; study wildlife habitats and monitor water resources.

    This artificially colored 2019 lidar image from Yosemite National Park shows built infrastructure and open spaces (white and gray) interspersed amid the forest. Credit: NV5 Geospatial.

    Building the perfect campfire requires the right mix of ingredients: plenty of kindling, a spark to ignite it, and large, dry logs to keep the fire burning strong. Unfortunately, fire suppression strategies adopted long ago—combined more recently with severe droughts and climate change—have created this same mixture writ large across many of the dry forests of the western United States, such as those in Yosemite National Park and elsewhere in the Sierra Nevada. Over the past several years, these conditions have led to disastrous, headline-grabbing fires that threaten human communities, ecosystems, and the very survival of our forests.

    Despite their destructive power, fires are natural phenomena in many forests, where they are essential to the biomes’ long-term health. Decades of field-based studies have built the field of fire ecology and have informed nuanced views of fire as both a threat and a restorative process. However, the expense of such fieldwork has meant that relatively small portions of forests—and their relation to fire—have been studied in detail. Even extensive field studies involving hundreds of forest plots may cumulatively measure conditions over only dozens to hundreds of hectares, yet because of the limited data available, these samples are taken to represent highly varied conditions over millions of hectares.

    Today, with help from remote sensing technologies, fire ecologists are more often examining continuous forest landscapes to understand their conditions before and after fires. In particular, they are using high-resolution laser imaging measurements gathered by lidar instruments aboard planes to map conditions from the treetops to the ground. Lidar allows us, for the first time, to quantify forest structure directly—that is, to determine tree heights, canopy densities, and the distribution of branches and leaves throughout the canopy—a feat previously possible only by painstaking field measurements. Lidar-based studies are beginning to enrich our understanding of wildfires historically, and they are providing forest managers with new tools to use in planning forest restorations and thus to improve forests’ resilience to future fires.

    A New Understanding of Fire in Forests

    For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, forest management efforts in the United States were focused on fire suppression. The rationale was that by preventing fires, forest management agencies could protect natural resources and wildlife, drive economic growth in the timber industry, and safeguard the lives and livelihoods of those living nearby.

    However, in the 1960s, fire ecology research at The University of California-Berkeley shined a light on the connection between regular fires and forest health for many forests in the arid western United States. In this work, researchers found that areas burned by fires under non-extreme weather conditions ultimately became more resilient and resistant to future burning. With less flammable material for subsequent fires to burn, these fires were prevented from burning as intensely and moving as rapidly over the landscape as they otherwise would have.

    As a result of this research, in the early 1970s, forest managers in Sequoia and Yosemite national parks in the Sierra Nevada of California were among the first to introduce prescribed burns and to allow lightning-sparked wildfires to burn in their jurisdictions as part of a fire benefit program. In doing so, they sought to return these forests to a healthy cycle involving frequent fires that had existed for centuries before managers first sought to suppress all fires in the 19th century.

    Much of this early fire ecology knowledge was gained through field studies. Research teams measured conditions on the ground, then extrapolated from these small plots to estimate likely conditions across vast reaches of parkland as they developed management plans. From there, forest managers embarked on strategic thinning initiatives or set managed, prescribed fires to improve forest health and resilience.

    The success of this approach became especially evident during the 2013 Rim Fire, which started in California’s Stanislaus National Forest but quickly spread to neighboring Yosemite. The fire caused less damage in Yosemite where it entered forests that had been subjected previously to lower-severity burns. In these areas, there was less undergrowth and thus smaller fuel loads, which resulted in lower-intensity fires that burned along the ground, rather than laddering up into the crowns of large, old-growth trees.

    Measuring the Whole Forest

    Scientists’ ability to study Yosemite’s forests both on a broader scale and in more detail began to change in 2010. From 2010 to 2011, Watershed Science (now NV5 Geospatial) used its airborne lidar instruments to image and measure a total of 64,800 acres (26,200 hectares) of Yosemite National Park’s forests, in research initiated by James Lutz, now at Utah State University, and Malcolm North of the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station. These lidar data—collected at a high density of about 100,000 measurements per acre (247,000 per hectare) across the full study area—provided a census of the 3D structure of vegetation and the ground below.

    The well-known granite outcrop of Half Dome and its surroundings in Yosemite National Park are shown in this 2019 lidar image, with tree cover in green. Credit: NV5 Geospatial.

    These data sets, supplemented by a larger lidar acquisition in 2013 following the Rim Fire that year, enabled numerous and varied studies focusing on the overall effects of fires, their impacts on habitat for critical species and on hydrology, and guidelines for managers seeking to improve the resilience of other Sierra Nevada forests to wildfire [Kane et al., 2013, 2014, 2015*].

    *See References below for all citations, links included.

    The first of these studies, led by one of the coauthors of this article, used the lidar data to examine the effects of fire across several forest types [Kane et al., 2013]. These forest types included stands (groups of trees) that had experienced a range of fire histories, from stands where fires had been suppressed for a century to others burned as many as three times under the restored fire regime enacted by the park’s managers since the 1970s.

    Key to these studies was the concept of the resulting burn severity. Wildfires naturally burn at different intensities over different areas. Burn severity describes the effects of fire on soils and vegetation and is commonly classified as low (only material on the ground burned), moderate (a portion of trees were also killed), or high (most to all trees were killed). Burn severity also has varying impacts on soil structure, permeability, organic matter, and ability to support regeneration of the forest. Generally, these severities are estimated from multispectral images collected by satellites, such as NASA’s Landsat, by analyzing ratios of spectral bands in the images that indicate values corresponding to the removal of green vegetation and organic matter from soils.

    The lidar-based studies added nuance and breadth to prior research and observations by ecologists and forest managers on the effects of fire. For example, previous fieldwork had suggested that low-severity fires removed fuels primarily on the surface but caused little change to the structure of the forest canopies above. However, the lidar measurements indicated that low-severity fires did a better job at thinning both underbrush and dead and unhealthy trees than had been thought, suggesting these burns may be effective at improving forest resilience.

    Multispectral imagery can indicate the severity of a wildfire’s effects on soils and vegetation. Low-severity fires burn only material on the ground, moderate-severity fires kill some trees, and high-severity fires kill most or all trees. Credit: Van R. Kane/University of Washington.

    Forests that have survived one or more fires tend to be more resilient to subsequent fires. A key trait of these forests is that previous fires leave a pattern of surviving individual trees or small clumps of trees interspersed with openings and gaps. Reconstructions of forests from more than 100 years ago, before managers began suppressing fires, have shown that these conditions were widespread among the U.S. West’s drier forests, including in Yosemite, and were key to forests thriving in a regime of frequent fires [Collins et al., 2011; Larson and Churchill, 2012; North et al., 2022]. This pattern reduced the fuel load available and created a web of natural firebreaks, increasing the probability of lower-severity fires. However, fire suppression over many decades allowed trees to fill in the openings, creating dense stands prone to intense fires that threaten forest survival.

    The historic tree clump and opening patterns were created by natural fires burning occasionally over centuries. Could fires burning today in vastly changed forests re-create these key patterns? With the lidar data collected in the early 2010s, we mapped patterns of trees and openings in Yosemite’s forests. The results revealed that where multiple fires had burned the same locations—reflecting a successful restoration of the frequent fire regime—these key patterns were present. Unexpectedly, we also found that even the first fire to burn a location in a century, if it burned under moderate weather and caused low to moderate burn severity, could re-create clump and opening patterns reminiscent of historic fire-resilient forests. This finding strongly supports the idea that using prescribed fires when weather conditions are not too dry can help restore forests and make them more resilient to future fires.

    The Next Generation of Lidar-Based Studies

    Until 2019, only about a third of Yosemite had been measured with lidar. In 2019, NV5 Geospatial, funded by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Yosemite Conservancy, conducted a comprehensive aerial survey across all of Yosemite and some adjacent areas. This survey, collected using the latest generation of airborne commercial lidar technology, provides more detailed measurements, particularly of vegetation structure, than the earlier surveys did. The project was completed as part of the USGS’s 3D Elevation Program, the objective of which is to meet growing needs for high-quality topographic data and for a wide range of other 3D representations of the nation’s natural and constructed features. The new data, for example, offer clearer looks at canopy structure and enable better mapping of fuel ladders (fuel that carries fire from low-growing vegetation into the tree canopy) and snags (dead trees). The new survey showed that forests in Yosemite have changed considerably even since they were first measured with lidar less than a decade earlier. Between 2013 and 2019, 354 fires burned 132,205 acres (53,500 hectares) of its forests—sometimes for the second or third time.

    More important, the recent data document how the recent devastating multiyear drought resulted in the death of a large fraction of the park’s trees in several key forest types like ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests, changing the character of these forests. The dead trees constitute a huge, unprecedented pulse of fuel that will feed future fires. Instead of being restorative, future fires fed by this massive fuel load could be devastating, akin to the 2020 Creek Fire that burned under similar conditions farther south in the Sierra Nevada.

    Forest structure, as seen in images like this 2019 lidar point cloud collected in Yosemite, can be used to assess fire risk and to analyze other aspects of a forest. Credit: NV5 Geospatial.

    The new lidar data have been processed and recently been made available to Yosemite’s managers and to researchers. We are beginning to work with the park’s managers to apply the new measurements to assess conditions across the entire park. Data from the earlier lidar flights will provide an important historic sample that will allow us to examine the intervening changes in detail.

    Benefits Beyond Forests

    The utility of lidar extends beyond fire management applications. For example, the earlier round of Yosemite lidar data was also used in a study of California spotted owl habitat. A key question that field studies had not been able to resolve was whether these threatened birds require a high density of canopy cover—a condition that would encourage more severe fires—throughout their ranges to survive. When we combined the Yosemite lidar data with lidar data from other Sierra Nevada forests, we showed that these owls require dense canopy cover only around their immediate nesting sites [North et al., 2017]. This finding can help forest managers safely thin forests farther from owls’ nests, thereby improving the forests’ resilience to future fires and drought while maintaining safe habitat for the owls.

    Droughts and fires not only jeopardize forest health and wildlife habitat; they also stress water resources for residents in the western United States. The depth and location of snowpack often affect water availability, which in turn can create shortages for residents. Lidar can help water managers in the Sierra Nevada, the Rocky Mountains, and other snowpack-influenced regions measure snow depth across large areas, and when it is combined with airborne hyperspectral imagery that gives information about the reflectivity of the snow (albedo), the combined data set provides information about the quantity of water stored in the snowpack. By comparing changes in snowpack over time within watersheds, rates of snowmelt can be estimated.

    These data help managers regulate water releases from reservoirs that provide water to urbanized areas in California, Colorado, and elsewhere. If water managers underestimate snowmelt and retain more water, their reservoirs could be overtopped, requiring rapid releases to avoid catastrophic damage. Alternatively, if they overestimate snowmelt and release too much water, they may not have enough to supply communities during drier times of the year.

    Seeing the Forest and the Trees

    Forests play many vital and stabilizing roles on our planet, including in mitigating climate change by moderating temperature and humidity and as prominent parts of Earth’s carbon and water cycles. They are also home to diverse species of animals and plants, they contribute to economies through timber production and tourism, and they are widely used for recreation.

    Understanding forest structure and responses to fire is more important than ever, considering how the incidence and intensity of forest fires are rising across much of the planet. Improving our understanding will help us to ensure the health of these important resources, prevent out-of-control fires that threaten lives and livelihoods, and preserve endangered wildlife habitat.

    Lidar’s capabilities to measure vegetation structure in detail across wide areas are shifting the paradigm of how forests are analyzed, and the technology is now being adopted as a foundational data collection method for forest management in the same way aerial photography was more than half a century ago.

    Since lidar’s initial use to study Yosemite just over a decade ago, lidar data have already revealed many new ecological insights that are changing not just how forestry practices are implemented but also how we see the forest. Scientists and forest managers are looking at how individual trees, rather than management units (i.e., stands of trees spread across 5–100 acres (2–40 hectares)), respond to and interact with climate and their local environment. This granular level of detail tells us much more about the processes occurring in forests and will help us make sustainable and wise decisions about resources that are essential for our long-term survival.


    Collins, B. M., R. G. Everett, and S. L. Stephens (2011), Impacts of fire exclusion and recent managed fire on forest structure in old growth Sierra Nevada mixed-conifer forests, Ecosphere, 2, 51, https://doi.org/10.1890/ES11-00026.1.

    Kane, V. R., et al. (2013), Landscape-scale effects of fire severity on mixed-conifer and red fir forest structure in Yosemite National Park, For. Ecol. Manage., 287, 17–31, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2012.08.044.

    Kane, V. R., et al. (2014), Assessing fire effects on forest spatial structure using a fusion of Landsat and airborne LiDAR data in Yosemite National Park, Remote Sens. Environ., 151, 89–101, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2013.07.041.

    Kane, V. R., et al. (2015), Water balance and topography predict fire and forest structure patterns, For. Ecol. Manage., 338, 1–13, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2014.10.038.

    Larson, A. J., and D. Churchill (2012), Tree spatial patterns in fire-frequent forests of western North America, including mechanisms of pattern formation and implications for designing fuel reduction and restoration treatments, For. Ecol. Manage., 267, 74–92, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2011.11.038.

    North, M. P., et al. (2017), Cover of tall trees best predicts California spotted owl habitat, For. Ecol. Manage., 405, 166–178, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2017.09.019.

    North, M. P., et al. (2022), Operational resilience in western US frequent-fire forests, For. Ecol. Manage., 507, 120004, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2021.120004.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

  • richardmitnick 1:17 pm on April 30, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Bracing our crops", , Botany, Crop lodging-whereby corn breaks; buckles or pulls out of the ground-is responsible for huge proportions of crop losses worldwide., Enter brace roots-the sturdy above-ground root system that keeps maize and related crops like sorghum upright., Genotypes with stronger brace roots were also composed of materials with a higher resistance to bending., In just about every corner of the globe maize is an essential crop. Americans-who call it corn-dedicate more than 90 million acres to it., Researcher Ashley Hostetler identifies traits that help crops survive in harsh environments., Sorghum is emerging as an alternative cereal crop due to its resilience in harsh environments.,   

    From The University of Delaware: “Bracing our crops” 

    U Delaware bloc

    From The University of Delaware

    April 29, 2022
    by Dante LaPenta
    Photos courtesy of Ashley Hostetler
    Photo illustration by Monica Moriak

    Researcher Ashley Hostetler identifies traits that help crops survive in harsh environments.

    Ashley Hostetler, a postdoctoral research scientist in the UD Sparks Lab, quantifies the height of mature sorghum plants.

    In just about every corner of the globe maize is an essential crop. Americans, who call it corn, dedicate more than 90 million acres to it — roughly the same size as the entire state of Montana. But a crop is only valuable if you can harvest it. Crop lodging, whereby corn breaks, buckles, or pulls out of the ground, is responsible for huge proportions of crop losses worldwide—up to 66% of the yield of a cereal crop like corn. And poor harvests of maize, a major crop for both food and fuel, is not something that the Earth’s swelling population can afford to lose.

    Enter brace roots-the sturdy above-ground root system that keeps maize and related crops like sorghum upright. Living up to its name, these roots brace the plant from lodging.

    Teamed up with the University of Delaware’s Erin Sparks, an assistant professor of plant molecular biology, UD postdoctoral researcher Ashley Hostetler was recently lead author on two scientific papers aimed at understanding maize brace roots and how different aspects of these roots help to anchor crops.

    “Right now, we have plants that aren’t able to withstand the severity or the increase of frequency of storm systems, which result in plants lodging,” Hostetler said. “The big goal of our research is to identify genotypes or the genes responsible for traits, for example, brace roots, that help plants survive in these harsh environments.”

    Above-ground roots brace the sorghum plant to increase crop anchorage and reduce yield loss due to root lodging.

    In the first paper, which was published in Plant, Cell and Environment, the researchers identified that multiple traits are important in resisting root lodging. Researchers examined 52 different varieties of corn, measuring the variation in the brace roots contribution to plant anchorage. They also quantified nine plant traits, including brace root thickness and brace root angle.

    Lodging is often difficult to study because the conditions that cause lodging (storm systems) cannot be planned for or repeated. However, the team was able to analyze brace roots up close and personal after a tropical storm hit Newark, Delaware in August 2020, where UD has a 350-acre teaching and research farm. The storm caused lodging among their research plants, providing the researchers with the opportunity to show that their measurement, the brace root contribution to anchorage, is a good indicator of which plants will lodge. Throughout the study, the team developed machine learning models, which showed that multiple traits can predict plant susceptibility to root lodging and how well brace roots anchor the plant.

    In the second paper, published in Annals of Botany, the research team looked at the mechanics of individual brace roots. Like an Olympic power lifting competition, they wanted to test brace roots’ strength. They looked at three genotypes to see which would win the gold, silver and bronze, respectively. The researchers examined the roots across multiple nodes (the location in the plant where the roots originate), genotypes and reproductive stages.

    “When you look at roots originating from nodes closer to the ground compared to roots higher from the ground, we were able to see that [location] played a role in the structural strength and material properties of the root,” Hostetler said.

    Ashley Hostetler holds a new device developed in the UD Sparks Lab called SMURF — Sorghum and Maize Under Rotational Force, which non-destructively measures the torsional stiffness of corn and sorghum plants.

    There was additional variation between genotypes. Specifically, genotypes with stronger brace roots were also composed of materials with a higher resistance to bending. Hydration was also a factor; dry brace roots were weaker than hydrated brace roots.

    “Both studies are important because often scientists, breeders or geneticists will focus on single traits — they’ll breed for one thing,” Hostetler said. “But our research shows that there are multiple traits or multiple factors like location of brace root, genotype or reproductive stage to consider when trying to choose the ‘best’ plant.”

    Hostetler stressed that, with differences in soil conditions, storm systems and the amount of water received, where you’re planting matters, too. A genotype may perform well in one region, yet poorly in another. The Sparks Lab is currently working to identify which traits are most important in mitigating the effects of root lodging on crop yield. This information could have broad importance for identifying genotypes that perform best in specific regions of the U.S. and across the world.

    “With the publication of these recent studies, we have defined a framework to assess what makes a brace root good at its job,” Sparks said. “This allows us to understand how these roots vary in their form and function across environments, and eventually match roots to their environment.”

    Recruiting Hostetler to UD

    Hostetler became interested in agricultural research by accident. As an undergraduate, she had her eye on dental school. However, after joining a genomics lab that worked in maize and sorghum to gain undergraduate research experience, her interest in the research took off.

    Ashley Hostetler, a postdoctoral research scientist in the UD Sparks Lab, quantifies the variation in plant traits among multiple sorghum genotypes.

    While pursuing her doctorate at The West Virginia University, Hostetler, who was investigating the whole plant response to abiotic stress in sorghum, attended an international maize genetics conference where she listened to UD’s Erin Sparks explain her research on brace roots. Hostetler was curious, posing several questions to the UD faculty member. Sparks recognized Hostetler’s research talent and successfully recruited her to a postdoctoral position with the UD Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in 2020.

    Hostetler is a master of many trades in the Sparks Lab, including large-scale data analysis, manuscript preparation, field collections and lab management.

    A national fellowship

    Now with the UD Sparks Lab, Hostetler was awarded a prestigious two-year U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture Postdoctoral Fellowship. Dedicated to studying root lodging, she’ll use the funding to investigate sorghum — another important cereal crop.

    Sorghum is emerging as an alternative cereal crop due to its resilience in harsh environments. But like corn, sorghum suffers from significant lodging which impacts efficient production. Hostetler will extend her work from maize to analyze traits key to root lodging resistance in sorghum, and identify the shared genetic basis of these traits.

    Taking the research a step further, she hopes to identify how the function and development of these traits is impacted in response to salt stress. Salt tolerance in crops is particularly relevant in Delaware. The rising sea-level is causing saltwater intrusion, which is limiting the land area where farmers can grow crops.

    “In environments with saltier soils, are these brace roots performing as well as they were in an area where there were not salty soils?” Hostetler said. “Storm systems are causing more root lodging, but they are also causing changes in stressors like salt and drought.”

    Sparks has high praise for Hostetler, who published a record three papers since she started in June 2020.

    “Dr. Hostetler has been a valuable and productive member of my lab,” Sparks said. “I am delighted that she has received such a prestigious fellowship and will continue in the lab to expand our work from maize into sorghum.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Delaware campus

    The University of Delaware is a public land-grant research university located in Newark, Delaware. University of Delaware (US) is the largest university in Delaware. It offers three associate’s programs, 148 bachelor’s programs, 121 master’s programs (with 13 joint degrees), and 55 doctoral programs across its eight colleges. The main campus is in Newark, with satellite campuses in Dover, the Wilmington area, Lewes, and Georgetown. It is considered a large institution with approximately 18,200 undergraduate and 4,200 graduate students. It is a privately governed university which receives public funding for being a land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant state-supported research institution.

    University of Delaware is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. According to The National Science Foundation , UD spent $186 million on research and development in 2018, ranking it 119th in the nation. It is recognized with the Community Engagement Classification by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

    University of Delaware is one of only four schools in North America with a major in art conservation. In 1923, it was the first American university to offer a study-abroad program.

    University of Delaware traces its origins to a “Free School,” founded in New London, Pennsylvania in 1743. The school moved to Newark, Delaware by 1765, becoming the Newark Academy. The academy trustees secured a charter for Newark College in 1833 and the academy became part of the college, which changed its name to Delaware College in 1843. While it is not considered one of the colonial colleges because it was not a chartered institution of higher education during the colonial era, its original class of ten students included George Read, Thomas McKean, and James Smith, all three of whom went on to sign the Declaration of Independence. Read also later signed the United States Constitution.

    Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus

    On October 23, 2009, the University of Delaware signed an agreement with Chrysler to purchase a shuttered vehicle assembly plant adjacent to the university for $24.25 million as part of Chrysler’s bankruptcy restructuring plan. The university has developed the 272-acre (1.10 km^2) site into the Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus. The site is the new home of University of Delaware’s College of Health Sciences, which includes teaching and research laboratories and several public health clinics. The STAR Campus also includes research facilities for University of Delaware (US)’s vehicle-to-grid technology, as well as Delaware Technology Park, SevOne, CareNow, Independent Prosthetics and Orthotics, and the East Coast headquarters of Bloom Energy. In 2020 , University of Delaware expects to open the Ammon Pinozzotto Biopharmaceutical Innovation Center, which will become the new home of the UD-led National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals. Also, Chemours recently opened its global research and development facility, known as the Discovery Hub, on the STAR Campus in 2020. The new Newark Regional Transportation Center on the STAR Campus will serve passengers of Amtrak and regional rail.


    The university is organized into nine colleges:

    Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics
    College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
    College of Arts and Sciences
    College of Earth, Ocean and Environment
    College of Education and Human Development
    College of Engineering
    College of Health Sciences
    Graduate College
    Honors College

    There are also five schools:

    Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration (part of the College of Arts & Sciences)
    School of Education (part of the College of Education & Human Development)
    School of Marine Science and Policy (part of the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment)
    School of Nursing (part of the College of Health Sciences)
    School of Music (part of the College of Arts & Sciences)

  • richardmitnick 9:26 am on April 25, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Botany, , ,   

    From The University of Maine: “Study finds trees vary in their recovery from drought stress with implications for future forests” 

    From The University of Maine

    April 15, 2022
    Margaret Nagle


    With over 4 feet of annual precipitation in the Northeast United States, drought is not often considered a major factor affecting the region’s forests. But warming temperatures cause forests to dry out quicker between rains. Seedlings are especially vulnerable because their nascent root systems can’t access moisture deeper in the soil, according to a University of Maine-led study.

    The timing of drought also affects which tree species are more vulnerable, according to the findings of the study, published in the journal Annals of Botany PLANTS.

    UMaine and Schoodic Institute scientists assessed the sensitivity of six tree species — red maple, paper birch, black cherry, eastern red cedar, eastern white pine, and northern white cedar — to drought occurring at different times during the growing season. A subset of the seedlings received either a spring, summer or early fall “drought” of six weeks, during which those particular plants did not get watered.

    The experiment was conducted in a greenhouse to simulate future temperatures and control the amount of water each tree seedling received.

    The study lead, UMaine graduate student Ruth van Kampen, tracked the height and diameter of each of the 288 seedlings throughout the growing season.

    “Thanks to the thousands of measurements on the tree seedlings by Ruth, we’re able to look at how tree growth recovers from drought within the same year,” says Jay Wason, UMaine assistant professor of forest ecosystem physiology and journal article co-author.

    The research showed that some growth strategies, such as concentrated growth in the spring months for eastern white pine and paper birch, make these trees very sensitive to early drought. Other species, like northern white cedar, showed resilience to drought through increased growth later in the season.

    “Species respond individually to climate change stress, such as drought,” says study co-author Nicholas Fisichelli of Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park. “This research helps us understand which species will be impacted depending on when droughts occur.”

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The The University of Maine is a public land-grant research university in Orono, Maine. It was established in 1865 as the land-grant college of Maine and is the flagship university of the University of Maine System. The University of Maine is one of only a few land, sea and space grant institutions in the nation. It is classified among “R2: Doctoral Universities – High research activity”.

    With an enrollment of approximately 11,500 students, The University of Maine is the state’s largest college or university. The University of Maine’s athletic teams, nicknamed the Black Bears, are Maine’s only Division I athletics program. Maine’s men’s ice hockey team has won two national championships.

    The University of Maine was founded in 1862 as a function of the Morrill Act, signed by President Abraham Lincoln. Established in 1865 as the Maine State College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts, the college opened on September 21, 1868 and changed its name to the University of Maine in 1897.

    By 1871, curricula had been organized in Agriculture, Engineering, and electives. The Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station was founded as a division of the university in 1887. Gradually the university developed the Colleges of Life Sciences and Agriculture (later to include the School of Forest Resources and the School of Human Development), Engineering and Science, and Arts and Sciences. In 1912 the Maine Cooperative Extension, which offers field educational programs for both adults and youths, was initiated. The School of Education was established in 1930 and received college status in 1958. The School of Business Administration was formed in 1958 and was granted college status in 1965. Women have been admitted into all curricula since 1872. The first master’s degree was conferred in 1881; the first doctor’s degree in 1960. Since 1923 there has been a separate graduate school.

    Near the end of the 19th century, the university expanded its curriculum to place greater emphasis on liberal arts. As a result of this shift, faculty hired during the early 20th century included Caroline Colvin, chair of the history department and the nation’s first woman to head a major university department.

    In 1906, The Senior Skull Honor Society was founded to “publicly recognize, formally reward, and continually promote outstanding leadership and scholarship, and exemplary citizenship within the University of Maine community.”

    On April 16, 1925, 80 women met in Balentine Hall — faculty, alumnae, and undergraduate representatives — to plan a pledging of members to an inaugural honorary organization. This organization was called “The All Maine Women” because only those women closely connected with the University of Maine were elected as members. On April 22, 1925, the new members were inducted into the honor society.

    When the University of Maine System was incorporated, in 1968, the school was renamed by the legislature over the objections of the faculty to the University of Maine at Orono. This was changed back to the University of Maine in 1986.

  • richardmitnick 10:56 am on April 23, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Bringing Back Fire-How Burning Can Help Restore Eastern Lands", Botany, , Yale Environment 360,   

    From Yale School of the Environment: “Bringing Back Fire-How Burning Can Help Restore Eastern Lands” 



    From Yale School of the Environment


    Yale University

    April 7, 2022 [Just found this in social media.]
    Gabriel Popkin

    A controlled burn near the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. Credit: Sarah Baker.

    For millennia, North American ecosystems benefited from fire, mostly set by Indigenous people. Now, a movement is growing, particularly in the eastern U.S., to reintroduce controlled burns to forests and grasslands and restore the role of fire in creating biodiverse landscapes.

    It’s an apocalyptic scene that has become all too familiar in recent years. Columns of thick black smoke rise from the land, turning the piercing late winter sun an otherworldly orange. The acrid smell of burning grass and trees wafts on the wind as dry stalks and dead trunks crackle and pop.

    By sunset on this cold February day, the flat, low-lying landscape on Maryland’s Eastern Shore has been charred black as far as the eye can see, with a few licks of flames still working their way through small trees and fence posts.

    But this is no climate change-fueled disaster. Quite the opposite: It’s an example of what ecologists call “good fire.” And Jeff Kirwan, whose 178-acre property we’re standing on, is thrilled by the flames ripping through his land. By clearing last year’s detritus, the fire will let sunlight hit the ground, stimulating marsh grasses to grow faster in the weeks ahead. Their roots will sequester carbon underground and, Kirwan hopes, build soil to keep the marsh above the surging water; sea level is rising faster here in the Chesapeake Bay region than almost anywhere on Earth.

    The fire will especially encourage a type of native marsh grass called threesquare, whose roots muskrats like to eat. Muskrats, which feature prominently in Indigenous creation stories in this part of the world, have long been prized here for their meat and fur by Native and non-Native people alike.

    Kirwan, an emeritus professor of forestry at The Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, is one of those Native people. A member of the Nause Waiwash Band of Indians indigenous to the Eastern Shore and now headquartered in nearby Cambridge, he often returns to the shore in winter to set muskrat traps. And he remembers his father showing him marshes burning as a child. “He said, ‘This is something we learned from our Indian ancestors that we continue to do today,’” Kirwan recalls.

    Kirwan is far from the only one wanting to see more flames. A growing movement of scientists, land management agencies, conservation organizations, and Indigenous groups is working to return fire to marshes like this one and to fire-adapted forests and grasslands throughout the United States. In the eastern U.S., where wildfires burn far less land than in the West, fire’s century-long absence has upended ecosystems. Forests once dominated by fire-adapted trees like oaks, hickories, and pines have been taken over by species that support far less wildlife. And overcrowded trees growing in woods without regular fire have stifled understory biodiversity, while raising the risk of damaging blazes.

    “It’s really hard to express the extent to which our natural areas have been drastically altered by taking away fire,” says Deborah Landau, an ecologist with The Nature Conservancy who helped plan the burn on Kirwan’s property.

    But fire promoters face stiff challenges. Relatively few people today are trained and qualified to burn. And everything from weather to government regulations to public hostility to fire conspires to keep fire off the land. A long-held view of fire as unnatural and threatening — amplified by dramatic images of climate change-fueled megafires in the western U.S. and elsewhere — is proving hard to overcome.

    Officials observe a controlled burn on Jeff Kirwan’s land near the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in February. Credit:Sarah Baker.

    Advocates say that view is misguided. Prescribed fire, they say, is a critical solution to address a panoply of stark and growing challenges: biodiversity loss, wildfire risk, climate change, threats to human health, and more. Ecologists say fire is a creative force that has long produced food for wildlife and humans and has helped maintain a balance allowing multitudes of species to thrive. “Fire,” says Landau, “is as natural as rain.”

    Flames once regularly touched nearly every square foot of what is now North America. Some blazes were started by lightning strikes. But most, scientists now believe, were set by humans. Indigenous people who inhabited this continent for millennia were sophisticated fire masters, using it to promote food-bearing plants, clear hunting and travel paths, create farming plots, control pests and diseases, and much more. From the oak woodlands of California to the undulating prairies of the Midwest to the vast pine savannas of the South — name the ecosystem, it was probably shaped by fire.

    But as Native people were pushed out, and as forests and other landscapes were integrated into global markets, fire came to be seen as a destructive force that could wipe out valuable resources, such as timber. Fire suppression also became wrapped up in the effort to suppress Native culture.

    The Forest Service dismissed [Native peoples’ use of fire],” says Arizona State University fire historian Stephen Pyne. “That really goes back to a very strong, European elite suspicion about fire.”

    While fire suppression and exclusion curtailed disastrous wildfires, at least for a time, they set in motion a cascade of other problems. Those are now coming to a head most intensely in the western U.S., where drought-stricken forests have become densely packed tinderboxes.

    Nature Conservancy staff administer a controlled burn at their Sideling Hill Creek Preserve in western Maryland in 2021. Credit: The Nature Conservancy.

    The eastern half of the continent is also suffering from a lack of fire, in ways perhaps subtler but no less profound. Research suggests that most of the eastern U.S. historically saw fire at least every three decades. Without fire, valuable ecosystems are now at risk. Among them is the longleaf pine savanna, which once covered vast areas of the Southeast, providing critical habitat for the now-endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, which nests only in holes in mature pine trees, and for a dizzying array of understory plants. The trees and plants need frequent fire to clear out competing species and encourage cones to open and drop their seeds. From pre-European times to the 1970s, the longleaf pine ecosystem shrank from some 90 million acres to 3.4 million acres.

    Fire in the East is slowly increasing as more land managers — both public agencies and private owners — start to burn again. In Florida and a few other Southeastern states, land owners burn millions of acres annually. But most of the East still receives far less fire than it did historically.

    “There are literally millions of acres that need to be burned per year,” says Jesse Wimberley, coordinator for the Sandhills Prescribed Burn Association in North Carolina. “It’s going to be a huge cultural shift.”

    Oak-hickory-chestnut forests, a bedrock ecosystem for biodiversity in much of the eastern U.S., are adapted to fire. When such forests don’t burn, less fire-tolerant trees like red maple, beech, and sweetgum often take over. Their flat leaves form damp mats that can suppress flames, and their seeds feed far less wildlife than fat- and protein-rich acorns, hickory nuts, and walnuts.

    It’s not just trees and animals that suffer when flames vanish. Eighty percent of a forest’s diversity is in its understory, and many species have evolved to grow in open, sunny patches, both in forests and in native grasslands and prairies that stretch through the midsection of the U.S. Wild blueberries, huckleberries, and many other native food-bearing plants grow better after a fire.

    The transformation unleashed by fire suppression “is a very serious ecological event,” says Marc Abrams, an ecologist at Pennsylvania State University who brought attention to the issue in a highly cited 2008 paper. “Forests are undergoing a sea change unlike what’s happened for thousands and thousands of years.”

    Landau calls it an ecological crisis. Rare Eastern species such as table mountain pine, whose cones need fire to open, and Canby’s dropwort, a delicate white-flowered wetland plant, could disappear from places that don’t burn, Landau fears. Studies she and others have led have found fewer bats and birds in forests that are not regularly burned, perhaps, she thinks, because the trees grow too densely for flying creatures to navigate.

    And yet, it’s not just about biodiversity. While the East has so far escaped the megafires that now torch the West, thanks to plentiful rain, wildfires do occur, as a recent blaze in northern Florida made clear. Climate models predict more intense droughts that could dry out soils and stress trees such as maple, which has a shallow root system adapted to wet ground. Ecologists fear that climate change could render Eastern forests — increasingly dominated by densely growing, drought-intolerant trees — far more vulnerable to future wildfires, potentially bringing California-style blazes to places like the Mid-Atlantic. Prescribed burns could lower that risk by thinning forests and helping restore more resilient trees like oaks and pines, ecologists say.

    Before (above) and after (below) a controlled burn at Maryland’s Plum Creek Preserve in January 2020. Credit: The Nature Conservancy.

    Lack of fire may even be harming public health. Recent research suggests that prescribed fire can dramatically lower an area’s population of disease-spreading ticks, including those that carry Lyme disease, which has spread rapidly in the era of fire suppression. [Scientific Reports]

    Citing botanist Cecil Frost, who has studied the impact of fire suppression on plant communities, Forest Service ecologist Beth Buchanan puts it this way: “Fire suppression is one of the unrecognized ecological catastrophes of the 20th century … it’s a huge deal.”

    It may seem counterintuitive that fire, so famous for consuming trees, can be good for plants. But trees like oak and pine don’t just tolerate moderate levels of fire; they thrive on it. Oaks’ tough, rumpled leaves and pines’ terpene-filled needles ignite easily and draw flames across the forest floor. Their thick bark is unperturbed by ground-hugging flames that eat through thin grasses and shrubs, and their seedlings thrive in the sunny clearings that fires create. Many fire-adapted understory plants, meanwhile, have deep underground roots that can hide from flames, soak up nutrients in ash left by a fire, and send up green shoots as soon as flames have died down.

    Promoting such plants is why Landau and some 20 other Nature Conservancy and Maryland Department of Forestry employees gathered last month about an hour’s drive from Kirwan’s marsh to torch some of their own forests.

    On this cold early spring morning, the team hoped to turn a 100-acre pine-oak forest with dense underbrush into a more open forest including hickories, blueberries, and a greater proportion of fire-adapted pines — a mix that grew here before Europeans transformed the landscape. In nearby areas where they have burned before, Landau has been amazed at what has come up: huckleberries, orchids not seen in years, carnivorous pitcher plants and sundews, and many other rare species. The re-emerging diversity “shows we’re doing something right,” she says.

    At 9:30 a.m., after team members had donned bright yellow fire-resistant “banana suits,” the burn boss handed out assignments: Some would ignite; others would rake debris to make a fire break; still others would staff fire engines loaded with tanks of water to douse any blaze threatening to escape the perimeter. Several people began dripping a diesel-gasoline mix from torches at the upwind forest edge, and flames inched into the woods. Once the burn boss confirmed the fire was behaving as intended, two others launched a drone loaded with small plastic balls filled with potassium permanganate to ignite the forest interior. Commands and weather observations echoed on radios carried by every group member.

    By mid-afternoon, the team had seemingly painted fire onto the land, burning exactly where and what they wanted. The mature pines’ lower trunks were singed black, and the ground beneath them was charred and cleared of most of the tangled brush that had been there at the start of the day. Watching the team was liking watching skilled artists at work — night and day from the chaotic infernos that usually make headlines.

    A controlled burn undertaken by the Nature Conservancy in eastern Maryland in March. Credit: Gabriel Popkin.

    “When you’re watching a successful controlled burn, it can be really boring,” says Landau. “That can really reduce the fear factor.”

    The U.S. Forest Service, created in large part to suppress fires, has begun to acknowledge that this policy was, in many instances, a deadly mistake — and a costly one. In recent years, the agency has had to devote most of its budget to fighting fires. To restore the natural balance and clear out trees that risk fueling megafires, the service has ramped up its prescribed burning program. Press releases ping out weekly announcements of burns up and down the Appalachians.

    That’s a good step, but more is needed, says service ecologist Greg Nowacki. No national forest unit in the East is burned frequently enough to replicate its pre-European fire interval, he has found in his research. Many receive less than 10 percent of their historical fire.

    “The Forest Service is not burning nearly as much as it should if you want to restore these oak-pine systems,” Nowacki says.

    Many factors hinder getting more flames on the ground. In most of the U.S., fire is regulated by a complex bureaucracy whose top responsibility is to prevent loss of life and property, not manage ecosystems. Fires on public land must typically be overseen by qualified burn bosses, who require up to a decade’s worth of training and certifications. And fire can be costly: A large, complex burn can easily run into the thousands of dollars or more. (Landau points out that other tools for managing ecosystems, such as herbicide and mechanical thinning, can cost similar amounts and do environmental damage.)

    Weather is another challenge. High winds, hot or dry air, excessive soil moisture, and snow can all scuttle a planned burn. Several times while reporting this story, I was poised to go to burns only to learn at the last minute that they had been called off due to an unexpected change in the weather.

    The Covid-19 pandemic has also throttled fire. Pandemic restrictions went into effect just as the 2020 Eastern fire season was entering full swing. In October, researchers analyzing satellite data for the southeastern U.S. reported that fire declined by more than 20 percent from March to December 2020 compared to the same period during previous years [PNAS]. Given that most land management agencies are already stretched thin, making up the Covid-driven fire deficit will likely take years, says Ben Poulter, a National Aeronautics and Space Agency researcher and coauthor of the paper.

    Another impediment is lack of knowledge. In many places where fire exclusion has long been the norm, few people today are trained and qualified to burn. When Kirwan bought his property in 2001, for example, he didn’t know how to burn it. In recent years, he lobbied the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the nearby Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, and the state of Maryland to burn his marsh, as they had done in the past, but “they never seemed to be able to get around to it,” he says.

    Unburned and burned areas on either side of a road on Jeff Kirwan’s land. Credit: Sarah Baker.

    In 2014, Kirwan took a three-day training to become a certified burn manager, theoretically enabling him to burn on his own land, but he realized that he would still need professional help to do it safely. “I would be hesitant to ever burn my marsh by myself,” he says. “Fire can easily spread over to people’s houses.”

    The breakthrough came when Gabe Cahalan, a Nature Conservancy fire manager, contacted Kirwan in 2020 to learn more about the region’s fire history. That set in motion planning for the late February fire, which encompassed some 1,700 acres covering both state-owned land and Kirwan’s property.

    The burn was a sophisticated all-day affair. Burn crew members drove tank-like Marsh Masters through the mucky soil to tamp down and wet grasses to create a fire break and ignite the dry marsh grasses. Even with those precautions, things didn’t go entirely as planned. Flames leapt from the marsh into a nearby ghost forest of dead pine trees, which the crew hadn’t planned to burn, forcing the Fish and Wildlife Service to deploy a fire engine to replenish the crew’s water tanks.

    Kirwan says that if the fire helps the marsh grow faster and healthier, it will have been worth the trouble and expense.

    “This marsh is doing a lot of good for a lot of people,” Kirwan says. “When you think about all the ecosystem services a marshland provides, it’s a bargain.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Yale School of the Environment


    Yale School of the Environment Vision and Mission

    We are leading the world toward a sustainable future with cutting-edge research, teaching, and public engagement on society’s evolving and urgent environmental challenges.

    Core Values

    Our Mission and Vision are grounded in seven fundamental values:

    Excellence: We promote and engage in path-breaking science, policy, and business models that build on a fundamental commitment to analytic rigor, data, intellectual integrity, and excellence.
    Leadership: We attract outstanding students nationally and internationally and offer a pioneering curriculum that defines the knowledge and skills needed to be a 21st century environmental leader in a range of professions.
    Sustainability: We generate knowledge that will advance thinking and understanding across the various dimensions of sustainability.
    Community: We offer a community that finds strength in its collegiality, diversity, independence, commitment to excellence, and lifelong learning.
    Diversity: We celebrate our differences and identify pathways to a sustainable future that respects diverse values including equity, liberty, and civil discourse.
    Collaboration: We foster collaborative learning, professional skill development, and problem-solving — and we strengthen our scholarship, teaching, policy work, and outreach through partnerships across the university and beyond.
    Responsibility: We encourage environmental stewardship and responsible behavior on campus and beyond.

    Guiding Principles

    In pursuit of our Mission and Vision, we:

    Build on more than a century of work bringing science-based strategies, ethical considerations, and conservation practices to natural resource management.
    Approach problems on a systems basis and from interdisciplinary perspectives.
    Integrate theory and practice, providing innovative solutions to society’s most pressing environmental problems.
    Address environmental challenges at multiple scales and settings — from local to global, urban to rural, managed to wild.
    Draw on the depth of resources at Yale University and our network of alumni who extend across the world.
    Create opportunities for research, policy application, and professional development through our unique centers and programs.
    Provide a diverse forum to convene conversations on difficult issues that are critical to progress on sustainability.
    Bring special focus on the most significant threats to a sustainable future including climate change, the corresponding need for clean energy, and the increasing stresses on our natural resources.

    Statement of Environmental Policy

    As faculty, staff, and students of the Yale School of the Environment, we affirm our commitment to responsible stewardship of the environment of our School, our University, the city of New Haven, and the other sites of our teaching, research, professional, and social activities.

    In the course of these activities, we shall strive to:

    reduce our use of natural resources;
    support the sustainable production of the resources we must use by purchasing renewable, reusable, recyclable, and recycled materials;
    minimize our use of toxic substances and ensure that unavoidable use is in full compliance with federal, state, and local environmental regulations;
    reduce the amount of waste we generate and promote strategies to reuse and recycle those wastes that cannot be avoided;
    restore the environment where possible.

    Each member of the School community is encouraged to set an example for others by serving as an active steward of our environment.

    Yale University is a private Ivy League research university in New Haven, Connecticut. Founded in 1701 as the Collegiate School, it is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine Colonial Colleges chartered before the American Revolution. The Collegiate School was renamed Yale College in 1718 to honor the school’s largest private benefactor for the first century of its existence, Elihu Yale. Yale University is consistently ranked as one of the top universities and is considered one of the most prestigious in the nation.

    Chartered by Connecticut Colony, the Collegiate School was established in 1701 by clergy to educate Congregational ministers before moving to New Haven in 1716. Originally restricted to theology and sacred languages, the curriculum began to incorporate humanities and sciences by the time of the American Revolution. In the 19th century, the college expanded into graduate and professional instruction, awarding the first PhD in the United States in 1861 and organizing as a university in 1887. Yale’s faculty and student populations grew after 1890 with rapid expansion of the physical campus and scientific research.

    Yale is organized into fourteen constituent schools: the original undergraduate college, the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and twelve professional schools. While the university is governed by the Yale Corporation, each school’s faculty oversees its curriculum and degree programs. In addition to a central campus in downtown New Haven, the university owns athletic facilities in western New Haven, a campus in West Haven, Connecticut, and forests and nature preserves throughout New England. As of June 2020, the university’s endowment was valued at $31.1 billion, the second largest of any educational institution. The Yale University Library, serving all constituent schools, holds more than 15 million volumes and is the third-largest academic library in the United States. Students compete in intercollegiate sports as the Yale Bulldogs in the NCAA Division I – Ivy League.

    As of October 2020, 65 Nobel laureates, five Fields Medalists, four Abel Prize laureates, and three Turing award winners have been affiliated with Yale University. In addition, Yale has graduated many notable alumni, including five U.S. Presidents, 19 U.S. Supreme Court Justices, 31 living billionaires, and many heads of state. Hundreds of members of Congress and many U.S. diplomats, 78 MacArthur Fellows, 252 Rhodes Scholars, 123 Marshall Scholars, and nine Mitchell Scholars have been affiliated with the university.


    Yale is a member of the Association of American Universities and is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. According to the National Science Foundation , Yale spent $990 million on research and development in 2018, ranking it 15th in the nation.

    Yale’s faculty include 61 members of the National Academy of Sciences , 7 members of the National Academy of Engineering and 49 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . The college is, after normalization for institution size, the tenth-largest baccalaureate source of doctoral degree recipients in the United States, and the largest such source within the Ivy League.

    Yale’s English and Comparative Literature departments were part of the New Criticism movement. Of the New Critics, Robert Penn Warren, W.K. Wimsatt, and Cleanth Brooks were all Yale faculty. Later, the Yale Comparative literature department became a center of American deconstruction. Jacques Derrida, the father of deconstruction, taught at the Department of Comparative Literature from the late seventies to mid-1980s. Several other Yale faculty members were also associated with deconstruction, forming the so-called “Yale School”. These included Paul de Man who taught in the Departments of Comparative Literature and French, J. Hillis Miller, Geoffrey Hartman (both taught in the Departments of English and Comparative Literature), and Harold Bloom (English), whose theoretical position was always somewhat specific, and who ultimately took a very different path from the rest of this group. Yale’s history department has also originated important intellectual trends. Historians C. Vann Woodward and David Brion Davis are credited with beginning in the 1960s and 1970s an important stream of southern historians; likewise, David Montgomery, a labor historian, advised many of the current generation of labor historians in the country. Yale’s Music School and Department fostered the growth of Music Theory in the latter half of the 20th century. The Journal of Music Theory was founded there in 1957; Allen Forte and David Lewin were influential teachers and scholars.

    In addition to eminent faculty members, Yale research relies heavily on the presence of roughly 1200 Postdocs from various national and international origin working in the multiple laboratories in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and professional schools of the university. The university progressively recognized this working force with the recent creation of the Office for Postdoctoral Affairs and the Yale Postdoctoral Association.

    Notable alumni

    Over its history, Yale has produced many distinguished alumni in a variety of fields, ranging from the public to private sector. According to 2020 data, around 71% of undergraduates join the workforce, while the next largest majority of 16.6% go on to attend graduate or professional schools. Yale graduates have been recipients of 252 Rhodes Scholarships, 123 Marshall Scholarships, 67 Truman Scholarships, 21 Churchill Scholarships, and 9 Mitchell Scholarships. The university is also the second largest producer of Fulbright Scholars, with a total of 1,199 in its history and has produced 89 MacArthur Fellows. The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs ranked Yale fifth among research institutions producing the most 2020–2021 Fulbright Scholars. Additionally, 31 living billionaires are Yale alumni.

    At Yale, one of the most popular undergraduate majors among Juniors and Seniors is political science, with many students going on to serve careers in government and politics. Former presidents who attended Yale for undergrad include William Howard Taft, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush while former presidents Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton attended Yale Law School. Former vice-president and influential antebellum era politician John C. Calhoun also graduated from Yale. Former world leaders include Italian prime minister Mario Monti, Turkish prime minister Tansu Çiller, Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, German president Karl Carstens, Philippine president José Paciano Laurel, Latvian president Valdis Zatlers, Taiwanese premier Jiang Yi-huah, and Malawian president Peter Mutharika, among others. Prominent royals who graduated are Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, and Olympia Bonaparte, Princess Napoléon.

    Yale alumni have had considerable presence in U.S. government in all three branches. On the U.S. Supreme Court, 19 justices have been Yale alumni, including current Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Brett Kavanaugh. Numerous Yale alumni have been U.S. Senators, including current Senators Michael Bennet, Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, Chris Coons, Amy Klobuchar, Ben Sasse, and Sheldon Whitehouse. Current and former cabinet members include Secretaries of State John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Cyrus Vance, and Dean Acheson; U.S. Secretaries of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott, Robert Rubin, Nicholas F. Brady, Steven Mnuchin, and Janet Yellen; U.S. Attorneys General Nicholas Katzenbach, John Ashcroft, and Edward H. Levi; and many others. Peace Corps founder and American diplomat Sargent Shriver and public official and urban planner Robert Moses are Yale alumni.

    Yale has produced numerous award-winning authors and influential writers, like Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Sinclair Lewis and Pulitzer Prize winners Stephen Vincent Benét, Thornton Wilder, Doug Wright, and David McCullough. Academy Award winning actors, actresses, and directors include Jodie Foster, Paul Newman, Meryl Streep, Elia Kazan, George Roy Hill, Lupita Nyong’o, Oliver Stone, and Frances McDormand. Alumni from Yale have also made notable contributions to both music and the arts. Leading American composer from the 20th century Charles Ives, Broadway composer Cole Porter, Grammy award winner David Lang, and award-winning jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer all hail from Yale. Hugo Boss Prize winner Matthew Barney, famed American sculptor Richard Serra, President Barack Obama presidential portrait painter Kehinde Wiley, MacArthur Fellow and contemporary artist Sarah Sze, Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Garry Trudeau, and National Medal of Arts photorealist painter Chuck Close all graduated from Yale. Additional alumni include architect and Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Maya Lin, Pritzker Prize winner Norman Foster, and Gateway Arch designer Eero Saarinen. Journalists and pundits include Dick Cavett, Chris Cuomo, Anderson Cooper, William F. Buckley, Jr., and Fareed Zakaria.

    In business, Yale has had numerous alumni and former students go on to become founders of influential business, like William Boeing (Boeing, United Airlines), Briton Hadden and Henry Luce (Time Magazine), Stephen A. Schwarzman (Blackstone Group), Frederick W. Smith (FedEx), Juan Trippe (Pan Am), Harold Stanley (Morgan Stanley), Bing Gordon (Electronic Arts), and Ben Silbermann (Pinterest). Other business people from Yale include former chairman and CEO of Sears Holdings Edward Lampert, former Time Warner president Jeffrey Bewkes, former PepsiCo chairperson and CEO Indra Nooyi, sports agent Donald Dell, and investor/philanthropist Sir John Templeton,

    Yale alumni distinguished in academia include literary critic and historian Henry Louis Gates, economists Irving Fischer, Mahbub ul Haq, and Nobel Prize laureate Paul Krugman; Nobel Prize in Physics laureates Ernest Lawrence and Murray Gell-Mann; Fields Medalist John G. Thompson; Human Genome Project leader and National Institutes of Health director Francis S. Collins; brain surgery pioneer Harvey Cushing; pioneering computer scientist Grace Hopper; influential mathematician and chemist Josiah Willard Gibbs; National Women’s Hall of Fame inductee and biochemist Florence B. Seibert; Turing Award recipient Ron Rivest; inventors Samuel F.B. Morse and Eli Whitney; Nobel Prize in Chemistry laureate John B. Goodenough; lexicographer Noah Webster; and theologians Jonathan Edwards and Reinhold Niebuhr.

    In the sporting arena, Yale alumni include baseball players Ron Darling and Craig Breslow and baseball executives Theo Epstein and George Weiss; football players Calvin Hill, Gary Fenick, Amos Alonzo Stagg, and “the Father of American Football” Walter Camp; ice hockey players Chris Higgins and Olympian Helen Resor; Olympic figure skaters Sarah Hughes and Nathan Chen; nine-time U.S. Squash men’s champion Julian Illingworth; Olympic swimmer Don Schollander; Olympic rowers Josh West and Rusty Wailes; Olympic sailor Stuart McNay; Olympic runner Frank Shorter; and others.

  • richardmitnick 12:19 pm on April 22, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The future of forests", Botany, ,   

    From Penn Today: “The future of forests” 

    From Penn Today


    U Penn bloc

    University of Pennsylvania

    April 21, 2022
    Kristina García

    With a warming climate, trees face an onslaught of changes—heat, drought, fire, flood, pests, and disease. How will they respond?

    Faced with an onslaught of changes—heat, drought, fire, flood, pests, and disease—forests are under stress.

    A towering evergreen in the pine family, the Canadian hemlock has a range that extends from Alabama to the northern reaches of Quebec and Newfoundland. But not for long. The state tree of Pennsylvania, planted in several locations on campus from the BioPond to College Green, is becoming increasingly rare in the state.

    Canadian hemlock, also called eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), thrives in shaded, cool valleys overlooking streams. Threatened by invasive insects and warming temperatures, the tree—like many others—is slowly moving north.

    Six thousand years ago, the Canadian hemlock almost disappeared from the historic pollen record due to unknown causes, says William Cullina, the F. Otto Haas Executive Director of the Morris Arboretum. While the hemlock eventually rebounded, other species—ash, oak trees, and beech—found their place in the forest during the hemlock’s wane, Cullina says, eventually diversifying the ecosystem. In the 21st century, it’s not just the hemlock but entire ecosystems that face the challenges of a changing climate in addition to invasive species, disease, and deforestation.

    Canadian hemlock, the state tree of Pennsylvania, is becoming increasingly rare in the mid-Atlantic.

    “Fast forward to now, and we are bombarding our native trees with an unprecedented number of organisms, attacking just about every species all at once.” The loss of one keystone species can make a significant impact on the ecosystem, he says. “If you lose six, what happens? Do we all go to grasslands?”

    Forest ecosystems are stressed, Cullina says. They’re facing devastation from insects and disease along with climate change, which is causing increased heat and drought and, in some areas, fire and flooding. How will forests adapt and respond?

    “Whether we like it or not, we have colonized and reengineered the planet,” says Richard Weller, the Martin and Margy Meyerson Chair of Urbanism and professor and chair of landscape architecture at the Stuart Weitzman School of Design and co-executive director of the McHarg Center. “Nature is no longer this big, beautiful backdrop to our activities” but has been fundamentally altered because of human actions. Climate change changes everything, he says.

    Living in the Anthropocene

    Some experts have deemed the current era the Anthropocene, referencing a geologic time period when humans have significantly impacted everything from ecosystems to climate. It’s an epoch in which the sixth mass extinction is unfolding, a decimation of biodiversity affecting every ecosystem.

    Looking at the earth, “what we have is one dominant species that has colonized everything else and left it in a series of fragments,” says Weller. He’s referring, of course, to Homo sapiens. The rest of the species—and their habitats—have been “sliced and diced and left in fragments,” he says.

    Weller, along with a team of students at the School of Design, is working on one possible solution. He calls it the World Park. The idea is to create three walkable, continent-traversing routes of protected spaces: one running longitudinally through North and South America from Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to the tip of Tierra del Fuego in Chile, the second spanning from Turkey to Namibia, and the third from coastal Morocco to the island of Tasmania.

    Three proposed World Park trails would provide space for plants and animals to migrate as climate change alters their habitats, says Richard Weller. Image: Madeleine Ghillany-Lehar.

    Protected land covers nearly 17% of the earth’s terrestrial surface, but these patches “are disconnected, so the animals and plants that are protected are actually trapped,” Weller says. “When you see it like that, you think, Oh, shoot.”

    The proposed land routes would connect 55 nations and 19 biodiversity hotspots through 163,000 kilometers of protected habitat, allowing species to migrate and mate. That way, if a species is experiencing heat stress in its current location, it’s able—like the hemlock—to move north.

    “If you want a robust landscape, you need large patches of habitat and you need those patches to be connected,” Weller says.

    To engineer solutions, “you need really big planetary scale initiatives, but you also need sensitivity to the very local, very specific, almost forensic attention to the detail of biodiversity and a diverse world of species and people and culture,” Weller says.

    The World Park concept would bridge top-down resources and concepts with hyperlocal knowledge, he says. The idea is to create one overarching system that would galvanize people to pool their resources with one megaproject that would achieve biological representation and connectivity.

    “Evolution is relentless,” says Weller. “But if it’s a world that we want to live in, with a certain diversity of species—many of which we’re currently killing—we need to restructure the landscape of human interests in order to create a different kind of mosaic. And we need to do it on a planetary scale.”

    Assisted migration

    “We are what’s considered the Northern Piedmont,” says Cullina, referring to the geology underfoot at the Arboretum. Stretching between the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains and the coastal plains, the Northern Piedmont is a transitional zone between the more humid, subtropical South and the colder climate of the Northeast.

    Currently, the region is experiencing dieback among trees like the Canadian hemlocks and sugar maples, long-time staples of Northeastern forests and forest culture, says Nicholas Pevzner, assistant professor of landscape architecture. Those species are already beginning to move north.

    Sugar maples, like these in the Chestnut Hill area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, are declining in the mid-Atlantic area.

    “It’s a given that we will have range shifts and that species will move if they’re able to” he says. “Hopefully we can prepare enough space for these arrivals, making it possible for them to establish in our forests. And some species will need a bit more human assistance to move north quickly enough.”

    “When we talk about looking for plants for the future, we’re thinking about things that grow in our eco-region, writ large, but are farther south,” Cullina says. These species have adapted to similar soil and co-exist with similar types of animal, insect and microbial life, but tolerate a longer growing season and warmer temperatures.

    The Morris Arboretum is currently evaluating species native to Virginia and North Carolina which, one day, may be new native species in the Northern Piedmont. They’re looking at several oak species, including the iconic Virginia live oaks that grow with the epiphytic Spanish moss, and bald cypress, whose shallow root systems can tolerate flood conditions, projected to increase in the Northern Piedmont.

    Sugar maples are projected to be essential gone from the Northern Piedmont by 2075, so the Arboretum is looking at Florida sugar maples and cloud forest sugar maples, the latter a species that was stranded in the mountains of Mexico after glaciers retreated and adapted to grow in that nation’s lower latitudes.

    “We’re planting trees to see how they perform in the landscape,” Cullina says. “We have this opportunity to use our sprawling campus as an experiment to see what does well.”

    Between the hotter microclimate of Penn’s urban campus to the greener environment of the Morris Arboretum in northwest Philadelphia to the cooler, rural setting of the School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center campus, it’s a chance to see how these trees handle varying weather patterns, he says.

    New threats: Invasive species and disease

    In addition to climate change, native plants are often threatened by insects and diseases introduced through globalization. Chestnut blight killed most of the American chestnuts in the early 20th century. Dutch elm disease, a fungus introduced via the shipping industry, decimated American elms in the mid-20th century. More recently, the larvae of the brilliant green emerald ash borer beetle, native to Eurasia, systematically drill under the bark of elm trees, their consumption girdling and killing an adult tree within three years.

    “It’s just like COVID, which spread around the world in months,” Cullina says. “If we’re the ones spreading this around, we have a responsibility to do something about it.”

    Virginia live oaks, a common sight in the American South, may migrate north into the mid-Atlantic as the climate warms. Image: Ryan Arnst on Unsplash.

    Cullina considers a multi-pronged approach. One “tool in the toolbox” is genetic modification. While this should be used with caution, genetic modification has the potential to sustain keystone species, like the American chestnut and elm, that have all but been wiped out, he says.

    When chestnut blight started killing the American chestnut tree, breeders decided to cross the American chestnut with the disease-resistant Chinese variety, Cullina says. That first generation had half of its genetic makeup from the Chinese chestnut and half from the American chestnut. Specimens that prove resistant to the chestnut blight are crossed back on to American chestnut and, little by little, the goal is to develop a variety that is very close to the native species while being resistant to chestnut blight. “This can be a slow process,” he says.

    “Evolution is genetic modification,” Cullina says. “There’s a slow modification of the gene pool in response to the environment.” There’s a human role to play in assisting species survival, he says. “I don’t think we have time to wait because of this unprecedented onslaught that’s happening to the forest. Not only are you losing the species, you’re losing that genetic diversity within the species.”

    Cullina tries to be optimistic about the future of forests, investing in facilities and research. “This is just the start, but for us, with a mission around trees, I don’t know how we cannot not try to do our part,” he says. “Just standing by, witnessing the extinction, is not an option.”

    Rows of Virginia live oak (Quercus virgniniana) planted as a trial at Morris Arboretum.

    Fire management

    “If we lived on a planet that was not fundamentally transformed by people, if we did not live in the Anthropocene, maybe we could simply leave forests alone and they’d be OK,” says Pevzner.

    But even before industrialization, humans altered landscapes in fundamental ways, he says. Case in point: the cultural burning practiced by many indigenous tribes in North America, which created a high canopy and cleared understory.

    With a century of fire management through suppression, “we’re getting these runaway blazes,” destructive and difficult to control. A blistering hot forest fire can damage the canopy, burn away the topsoil, and release a significant amount of carbon into the atmosphere, Pevzner says.

    The “big picture with carbon emissions and wildfire is that forests are great carbon sinks,” he says. “But as the fire regime changes to have these more frequent and more intense wildfires, forests are changing, transitioning from carbon sinks into net sources of carbon emissions.”

    Some forests don’t have the opportunity to regrow, especially those with iconic old-growth trees, like redwoods, which only reach their peak after centuries. And if the topsoil is burned away, the landscape is not able to return to any kind of forested condition, Pevzner says. In addition, the American West is experiencing a once-in-multiple-centuries drought event, “and that’s an indicator of where things are going,” he says.

    Part of the fire risk is due to a hotter and drier climate, but the encroachment of urban development on wild environments also poses a threat, Pevzner says. These areas are now facing the same question that coastal communities have faced for decades: hold the line or retreat?

    Bald cypress planted in the wetlands of Morris Arboretum.

    “It’s definitely a land management problem and a policy problem,” Pevzner says. “Design can help with everything from the way in which we design these adjacent communities to the ways in which we start thinking about forest management as a design problem.”

    It’s essential to find new ways of interacting with changing forests, from rethinking settlement patterns to pest management, but the “biggest thing we can do is focus on our carbon emissions in the near term,” Pevzner says. “Every fraction of a degree of global warming compounds and impacts the risk on people and ecosystems.”

    Facing the future: “Nature’s a good guide”

    This is not the first time that forests have faced threats, Pevzner says. But climate change is shifting multiple systems simultaneously and at a faster pace. “There’s a lot of uncertainty in where all of these variables are going to leave us once they run their course,” he says.

    If the environment changes too much over a short period of time, says Cullina, “the trees will die; the plants will die.” What kind of response does climate change require, and can the human species still engineer their way out of the problems they created?

    “Designing in the broadest sense means just the application of human intelligence to problems and foresight,” Weller says. “How do we envision the future and plan and design for that future? That’s, I think, what’s happening globally.”

    “Nature’s a good guide,” Cullina says. The first Virginia live oaks planted on campus are now over 15 feet tall. Their leaves unfurl, stretching towards the sun. At Penn, these plants are a harbinger of what’s to come.

    See the full article here .


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    Stem Education Coalition

    U Penn campus

    Academic life at University of Pennsylvania is unparalleled, with 100 countries and every U.S. state represented in one of the Ivy League’s most diverse student bodies. Consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the country, Penn enrolls 10,000 undergraduate students and welcomes an additional 10,000 students to our world-renowned graduate and professional schools.

    Penn’s award-winning educators and scholars encourage students to pursue inquiry and discovery, follow their passions, and address the world’s most challenging problems through an interdisciplinary approach.

    The University of Pennsylvania is a private Ivy League research university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The university claims a founding date of 1740 and is one of the nine colonial colleges chartered prior to the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin, Penn’s founder and first president, advocated an educational program that trained leaders in commerce, government, and public service, similar to a modern liberal arts curriculum.

    Penn has four undergraduate schools as well as twelve graduate and professional schools. Schools enrolling undergraduates include the College of Arts and Sciences; the School of Engineering and Applied Science; the Wharton School; and the School of Nursing. Penn’s “One University Policy” allows students to enroll in classes in any of Penn’s twelve schools. Among its highly ranked graduate and professional schools are a law school whose first professor wrote the first draft of the United States Constitution, the first school of medicine in North America (Perelman School of Medicine, 1765), and the first collegiate business school (Wharton School, 1881).

    Penn is also home to the first “student union” building and organization (Houston Hall, 1896), the first Catholic student club in North America (Newman Center, 1893), the first double-decker college football stadium (Franklin Field, 1924 when second deck was constructed), and Morris Arboretum, the official arboretum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The first general-purpose electronic computer (ENIAC) was developed at Penn and formally dedicated in 1946. In 2019, the university had an endowment of $14.65 billion, the sixth-largest endowment of all universities in the United States, as well as a research budget of $1.02 billion. The university’s athletics program, the Quakers, fields varsity teams in 33 sports as a member of the NCAA Division I Ivy League conference.

    As of 2018, distinguished alumni and/or Trustees include three U.S. Supreme Court justices; 32 U.S. senators; 46 U.S. governors; 163 members of the U.S. House of Representatives; eight signers of the Declaration of Independence and seven signers of the U.S. Constitution (four of whom signed both representing two-thirds of the six people who signed both); 24 members of the Continental Congress; 14 foreign heads of state and two presidents of the United States, including Donald Trump. As of October 2019, 36 Nobel laureates; 80 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; 64 billionaires; 29 Rhodes Scholars; 15 Marshall Scholars and 16 Pulitzer Prize winners have been affiliated with the university.


    The University of Pennsylvania considers itself the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States, though this is contested by Princeton University and Columbia University. The university also considers itself as the first university in the United States with both undergraduate and graduate studies.

    In 1740, a group of Philadelphians joined together to erect a great preaching hall for the traveling evangelist George Whitefield, who toured the American colonies delivering open-air sermons. The building was designed and built by Edmund Woolley and was the largest building in the city at the time, drawing thousands of people the first time it was preached in. It was initially planned to serve as a charity school as well, but a lack of funds forced plans for the chapel and school to be suspended. According to Franklin’s autobiography, it was in 1743 when he first had the idea to establish an academy, “thinking the Rev. Richard Peters a fit person to superintend such an institution”. However, Peters declined a casual inquiry from Franklin and nothing further was done for another six years. In the fall of 1749, now more eager to create a school to educate future generations, Benjamin Franklin circulated a pamphlet titled Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania, his vision for what he called a “Public Academy of Philadelphia”. Unlike the other colonial colleges that existed in 1749—Harvard University, William & Mary, Yale Unversity, and The College of New Jersey—Franklin’s new school would not focus merely on education for the clergy. He advocated an innovative concept of higher education, one which would teach both the ornamental knowledge of the arts and the practical skills necessary for making a living and doing public service. The proposed program of study could have become the nation’s first modern liberal arts curriculum, although it was never implemented because Anglican priest William Smith (1727-1803), who became the first provost, and other trustees strongly preferred the traditional curriculum.

    Franklin assembled a board of trustees from among the leading citizens of Philadelphia, the first such non-sectarian board in America. At the first meeting of the 24 members of the board of trustees on November 13, 1749, the issue of where to locate the school was a prime concern. Although a lot across Sixth Street from the old Pennsylvania State House (later renamed and famously known since 1776 as “Independence Hall”), was offered without cost by James Logan, its owner, the trustees realized that the building erected in 1740, which was still vacant, would be an even better site. The original sponsors of the dormant building still owed considerable construction debts and asked Franklin’s group to assume their debts and, accordingly, their inactive trusts. On February 1, 1750, the new board took over the building and trusts of the old board. On August 13, 1751, the “Academy of Philadelphia”, using the great hall at 4th and Arch Streets, took in its first secondary students. A charity school also was chartered on July 13, 1753 by the intentions of the original “New Building” donors, although it lasted only a few years. On June 16, 1755, the “College of Philadelphia” was chartered, paving the way for the addition of undergraduate instruction. All three schools shared the same board of trustees and were considered to be part of the same institution. The first commencement exercises were held on May 17, 1757.

    The institution of higher learning was known as the College of Philadelphia from 1755 to 1779. In 1779, not trusting then-provost the Reverend William Smith’s “Loyalist” tendencies, the revolutionary State Legislature created a University of the State of Pennsylvania. The result was a schism, with Smith continuing to operate an attenuated version of the College of Philadelphia. In 1791, the legislature issued a new charter, merging the two institutions into a new University of Pennsylvania with twelve men from each institution on the new board of trustees.

    Penn has three claims to being the first university in the United States, according to university archives director Mark Frazier Lloyd: the 1765 founding of the first medical school in America made Penn the first institution to offer both “undergraduate” and professional education; the 1779 charter made it the first American institution of higher learning to take the name of “University”; and existing colleges were established as seminaries (although, as detailed earlier, Penn adopted a traditional seminary curriculum as well).

    After being located in downtown Philadelphia for more than a century, the campus was moved across the Schuylkill River to property purchased from the Blockley Almshouse in West Philadelphia in 1872, where it has since remained in an area now known as University City. Although Penn began operating as an academy or secondary school in 1751 and obtained its collegiate charter in 1755, it initially designated 1750 as its founding date; this is the year that appears on the first iteration of the university seal. Sometime later in its early history, Penn began to consider 1749 as its founding date and this year was referenced for over a century, including at the centennial celebration in 1849. In 1899, the board of trustees voted to adjust the founding date earlier again, this time to 1740, the date of “the creation of the earliest of the many educational trusts the University has taken upon itself”. The board of trustees voted in response to a three-year campaign by Penn’s General Alumni Society to retroactively revise the university’s founding date to appear older than Princeton University, which had been chartered in 1746.

    Research, innovations and discoveries

    Penn is classified as an “R1” doctoral university: “Highest research activity.” Its economic impact on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for 2015 amounted to $14.3 billion. Penn’s research expenditures in the 2018 fiscal year were $1.442 billion, the fourth largest in the U.S. In fiscal year 2019 Penn received $582.3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health.

    In line with its well-known interdisciplinary tradition, Penn’s research centers often span two or more disciplines. In the 2010–2011 academic year alone, five interdisciplinary research centers were created or substantially expanded; these include the Center for Health-care Financing; the Center for Global Women’s Health at the Nursing School; the $13 million Morris Arboretum’s Horticulture Center; the $15 million Jay H. Baker Retailing Center at Wharton; and the $13 million Translational Research Center at Penn Medicine. With these additions, Penn now counts 165 research centers hosting a research community of over 4,300 faculty and over 1,100 postdoctoral fellows, 5,500 academic support staff and graduate student trainees. To further assist the advancement of interdisciplinary research President Amy Gutmann established the “Penn Integrates Knowledge” title awarded to selected Penn professors “whose research and teaching exemplify the integration of knowledge”. These professors hold endowed professorships and joint appointments between Penn’s schools.

    Penn is also among the most prolific producers of doctoral students. With 487 PhDs awarded in 2009, Penn ranks third in the Ivy League, only behind Columbia University and Cornell University (Harvard University did not report data). It also has one of the highest numbers of post-doctoral appointees (933 in number for 2004–2007), ranking third in the Ivy League (behind Harvard and Yale University) and tenth nationally.

    In most disciplines Penn professors’ productivity is among the highest in the nation and first in the fields of epidemiology, business, communication studies, comparative literature, languages, information science, criminal justice and criminology, social sciences and sociology. According to the National Research Council nearly three-quarters of Penn’s 41 assessed programs were placed in ranges including the top 10 rankings in their fields, with more than half of these in ranges including the top five rankings in these fields.

    Penn’s research tradition has historically been complemented by innovations that shaped higher education. In addition to establishing the first medical school; the first university teaching hospital; the first business school; and the first student union Penn was also the cradle of other significant developments. In 1852, Penn Law was the first law school in the nation to publish a law journal still in existence (then called The American Law Register, now the Penn Law Review, one of the most cited law journals in the world). Under the deanship of William Draper Lewis, the law school was also one of the first schools to emphasize legal teaching by full-time professors instead of practitioners, a system that is still followed today. The Wharton School was home to several pioneering developments in business education. It established the first research center in a business school in 1921 and the first center for entrepreneurship center in 1973 and it regularly introduced novel curricula for which BusinessWeek wrote, “Wharton is on the crest of a wave of reinvention and change in management education”.

    Several major scientific discoveries have also taken place at Penn. The university is probably best known as the place where the first general-purpose electronic computer (ENIAC) was born in 1946 at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering.

    ENIAC UPenn

    It was here also where the world’s first spelling and grammar checkers were created, as well as the popular COBOL programming language. Penn can also boast some of the most important discoveries in the field of medicine. The dialysis machine used as an artificial replacement for lost kidney function was conceived and devised out of a pressure cooker by William Inouye while he was still a student at Penn Med; the Rubella and Hepatitis B vaccines were developed at Penn; the discovery of cancer’s link with genes; cognitive therapy; Retin-A (the cream used to treat acne), Resistin; the Philadelphia gene (linked to chronic myelogenous leukemia) and the technology behind PET Scans were all discovered by Penn Med researchers. More recent gene research has led to the discovery of the genes for fragile X syndrome, the most common form of inherited mental retardation; spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy, a disorder marked by progressive muscle wasting; and Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the hands, feet and limbs.

    Conductive polymer was also developed at Penn by Alan J. Heeger, Alan MacDiarmid and Hideki Shirakawa, an invention that earned them the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. On faculty since 1965, Ralph L. Brinster developed the scientific basis for in vitro fertilization and the transgenic mouse at Penn and was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2010. The theory of superconductivity was also partly developed at Penn, by then-faculty member John Robert Schrieffer (along with John Bardeen and Leon Cooper). The university has also contributed major advancements in the fields of economics and management. Among the many discoveries are conjoint analysis, widely used as a predictive tool especially in market research; Simon Kuznets’s method of measuring Gross National Product; the Penn effect (the observation that consumer price levels in richer countries are systematically higher than in poorer ones) and the “Wharton Model” developed by Nobel-laureate Lawrence Klein to measure and forecast economic activity. The idea behind Health Maintenance Organizations also belonged to Penn professor Robert Eilers, who put it into practice during then-President Nixon’s health reform in the 1970s.

    International partnerships

    Students can study abroad for a semester or a year at partner institutions such as the London School of Economics(UK), University of Barcelona [Universitat de Barcelona](ES), Paris Institute of Political Studies [Institut d’études politiques de Paris](FR), University of Queensland(AU), University College London(UK), King’s College London(UK), Hebrew University of Jerusalem(IL) and University of Warwick(UK).

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