This much is known…Arabidopsis science-art

Proving that science and art aren’t mutually exclusive, check out this gorgeous animation that has recently been produced by engineer-turned-Fine Art student Andrew Styan.

this much is known from Andrew Styan on Vimeo.

Andrew recently took part in a science-art course, tutored in part by Dr Gordon Simpson, an Arabidopsis researcher who works within Dundee’s Department of Plant Sciences.

Inspired by Dr Simpson’s work, Andrew’s animation This Much is Known represents 25 years of Arabidopsis research and demonstrates how our understanding of this little weed has expanded in such a relatively short time.

Using the Scopus database, he searched for all Arabidopsis papers published in the last 25 years, and the keywords associated with them. Each bubble that appears on the screen represents a different keyword, with the size of the bubble growing as more papers on that topic are published.

I think it’s very clever and very beautiful! Thanks Andrew, and Gordon!

If there are any other budding science-artists out there who have produced some cool work on Arabidopsis or other plant science, we’d love to see it so please email lisa@garnetcommunity.org.uk.

The Plant Science Panel

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Published on: August 15, 2013

Have you heard about the Plant Science Panel? It is a panel of plant scientists, including GARNet committee member Smita Kurup, and previous guest bloggers Anne Osterrieder and Alan Jones, ready and waiting to answer questions from the public about plant biotechnology and plant science.

There are regular live Q&A sessions online, during which people can ask questions via email or on the #plantsci Twitter hashtag. The first few of these sessions, which took place over summer 2012, tackled the Big Question surrounding plant science, agri-technology and the public – genetically modified foods. You can see the topics and the questions and answers on the Plant Science Panel webpage.

Now though, the Plant Science Panel is bigger than the classic GMO debate, covering the many areas of every day life that feature plant science affects. There have been Q&As about ash dieback, bee colony collapse, and organic farming. The questions submitted and answered outside of the allocated Q&A times are broader still, including the subtle differences in herbs like lemon and orange thyme, nutrient uptake by roots, and why nutrient burn causes leaf tips to brown and curl.

Postcards advertising the plant science panel are now available from Sense About Science. Frances Downey, who runs the Plant Science Panel, says, “If you are doing some outreach, giving a talk or just want to give them out to your friends and family contact plantsci@senseaboutscience.org. Help us ensure as many people know about it as possible – request some postcards and give them out to anyone you think might want to send a question in.”

 

Corpse Flower

Categories: Friday Film, something fun
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Published on: February 15, 2013

If you have even been close to a hawthorn tree, you will know that yesterday’s post about pretty roses and petunias didn’t tell the whole story about floral smells. Today, lets consider a flower far smellier than mildly unpleasant hawthorn blossoms – the fascinating titan arum, Amorphophallus titanum, sometimes also known as the corpse flower. It has the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world, emits a powerful, horrible smell like rotting flesh, and is thermogenic.

Shirashi et al. (2010, Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 74:2550) published observations of a titan arum in flower. When the petal-like spathe began to open, the plant emitted a smell like rotten fruit. As time went on, the smell became stronger and more unpleasant. When the spathe opened fully, revealing the tall spadix, the spadix became up to to 5°C hotter than the ambient temperature and secreted a strong smelling fluid like rotton flesh. The spathe was open for around 12 hours.

Shirashu et al. identified the odorous chemical emitted by the titan arum as dimethyl trisulphate, a product of bacterial decomposition of mammalian flesh. It is emitted by a few other plants, all of which, like the corpse flower, are pollinated by insects that feed on rotting flesh.

The titan arum is an impressive, but rather gruesome, plant. And like all gruesome things, it attracts visitors to science outreach events! The video above is about the Corpse Flower attraction at the Museum of Natural Science in Houston.

Video credit: VOA News, via YouTube. 

 

Why are there no pop hits about Arabidopsis?

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Published on: February 1, 2013

Ginny from Science and Plants for Schools pointed this video out to me recently. It’s a fun but entirely accurate love song to everyone’s favourite weed, genetic treasure trove (thanks Malcolm for that great little phrase!) Arabidopsis thaliana. Listen out to the shout out for TAIR!

This video was made by Professor Karmadillo. You can find him on YouTube, on his website, and on Twitter at @singingscience.

See you in 2013!

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Published on: December 24, 2012

Plant Science for Christmas

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Published on: December 20, 2012

Plants make Christmas, from the wreath on the door to the brussels sprouts on the table. In celebration of plant science and this most planty time of year, here’s some Christmassy plant science for you to enthral (or bore?) your nearest and dearest with next week. Perhaps while some of them are trying to watch the Made in Chelsea Christmas Special…

The Holly and the Ivy: Holly reacts to herbivores by making some leaves prickly while leaving others smooth – a form of heterophylly, where a plant has two or more types of leaf. This story from Science Daily also features ivy – science inspired by S’Cliff Richard himself!

I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus: Mistletoe is already a ‘complementary and alternative’ cancer treatment (see the National Cancer Institute for more information), but a new study indicates it may become the source of a new mainstream anti-cancer drug. Researchers from the University of Adelaide have shown that an extract from mistletoe species Fraxini effectively reduces the viability of colon cancer cells, and is more potent than a chemotherapy drug.

We Three Kings: Frankincense is harvested from Boswellia papyrifera by ‘tapping’ the tree trunk and collecting the resin. Over-harvesting a tree ironically causes resin production to fall or cease as the tree expends resources on healing the wounds caused by tapping, and can even kill the tree as pathogens take advantage of the damage to the trunk. The Annals of Botany blog highlighted a paper published in Annals of Botany about the anatomy of the resin secretory system, and how the knowledge can improve sustainability of frankincense harvesting.

Oh Christmas Tree: If you have a live Christmas tree, it’s likely to be very similar to the conifers that dinosaurs roamed around. A study published in BMC Biology in October (Pavy et al., 2012) showed that the genomes of spruce and pine, which diverged 100 million years ago, have high synteny and co-linearity, suggesting no major genome changes have occurred. Senior author on the paper, Professor Jean Bousquet from Université Laval in Quebec, said, “Conifers appear to have achieved a balance with their environment very early. Still today these plants thrive over much of the globe. In contrast, flowering plants are under intense evolutionary pressure as they battle for survival and reproduction.”

Finally, for non-planty but very funny Christmas-based ‘science’ (inverted commas necessary), check out Dr Molecule’s latest blog post.

Image credit: Holly (ilex aquifolium) by Alfred Borchard; Pine Wood by Hajnalka Ardai Mrs., all via stock.xchng.

GARNet workshop in Tweets

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Published on: November 29, 2012

The GARNet Tools and Technologies to Advance Plant Research workshop took place on Monday this week. It was my first attempt at live-tweeting, so I failed to take any meaningful notes for a proper blog post about it. However, you can see the abstract book here and the speakers’ slides will be online soon. In the meantime, I made a Storify of tweets from the workshop – who needs notes when you have Twitter? Thanks to @plantscience, @LiverpoolPlants, and @NeilHall_uk who all tweeted on the day and whose tweets are in the Storify.

Plant science hoax

Categories: Friday Film, something fun
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Published on: November 16, 2012

At SpotOn London 2012, I went to a session discussion the prevention of academic fraud. When I was thinking of a Friday Film for this week, I remembered this amazing Panorama hoax from 1957. True, it’s not exactly academic fraud, but it is a false story about plant science, and people actually believed it! I love the deadpan references to plant breeders, environmental conditions, and a plant pest.

Credit: Alexandra Palace Television Society

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