Great British Success in ERA-CAPS

The ERA-CAPS funding call was a major EU initiative that was focused on plant sciences. Recently the second set of successfully funded projects were announced, even though the funding levels have not been confirmed. Amongst these twelve successful bids, eight feature UK plant scientists (including four from the JIC). These successful projects are highlighted below:
logo-era-caps
Project Name: DesignStarch, Designing starch: harnessing carbohydrate polymer synthesis in plants

The UK representative Rob Field is a biochemist based at the John Innes Centre. The objective of this project is to ‘gain a profound understanding of the regulation and control of the biophysical and biochemical processes involved in the formation of the complex polymeric structure that is the starch granule’, which will involve in vitro analysis of the enzymology of starch formation with the ultimate aim of transferring their findings back into plants.

EfectaWheat: An Effector- and Genomics-Assisted Pipeline for Necrotrophic Pathogen Resistance Breeding in Wheat

James Cockram (NIAB) is the project leader on this grant that proposes to investigate the economically important wheat leaf spot group (LSG) of necrotrophic pathogens. The project will use a range of techniques such as high-density genotyping, pathogen re-sequencing and advanced virulence diagnosis to deliver a genomics- and effector-based pipeline for the genetic dissection of LSG host-pathogen interactions across Europe.

EVOREPRO: Evolution of Sexual Reproduction in Plants

Both David Twell (Leicester) and Jose Gutierrez-Marcos (Warwick) are included in this seven-group consortium that aims to investigate the origin of the mechanisms that predate double fertilization in plants. The project will take a comparative gene expression-based approach to investigate gametogenesis across Marchantia, Physcomitrella, Amborella, Arabidopsis and a range of crop species. The expected findings will allow the identification of specific mechanisms that are targeted by environmental stresses during sexual reproduction in crops and will assist in the selection of stress-resistant cultivars.

INTREPID: Investigating Triticeae Epigenomes for Domestication

GARNet advisory board member Anthony Hall (Liverpool) leads this group which includes long time collaborator Mike Bevan (JIC). This project will look at variations in the epigenome across eight diverse wheat lines with the aim of determined how epigenetic marks are re-set and stabilized during the formation of new wheat hybrids and how they might influence gene expression.

MAQBAT: Mechanistic Analysis of Quantitative Disease Resistance in Brassicas by Associative Transcriptomics

John Innes Centre scientist Chris Ridout leads this six PI consortium that will look at pathogen resistance in Brassica napus, where diseases are a major limiting factor in growth success. Almost 200 lines of B.napus will be screened against a range of specific and general pathogens in the aim of discovering important disease resistance loci. One proposed aspect of the work will look at the role of glucosinolates in both disease resistace and seed quality. The project also includes UK B.napus expert Bruce Fitt (Hertfordshore).

PHYTOCAL: Phytochrome Control of Resource Allocation and Growth in Arabidopsis and in Brassicaceae crops

Karen Halliday (Edinburgh) leads this three-PI group that will investigate the link between phytochrome signaling and resource allocation in both Arabidopsis and B.rapa. One aim of the project will be to build models that predict the dual action of phytochrome and photosynthesis on resource management and biomass production.

RegulaTomE: Regulating Tomato quality through Expression

Cathie Martin (JIB) leads this largest successful consortium of 8 labs that aim to link transcriptional regulation of metabolic pathways with tomato quality. Loci contributing to abiotic stress tolerance will also be identified toward the combined goals of obtaining more nutritious, stable and sustainable crops. The project will lead to regulatory gene identification (an important advance in terms of fundamental understanding), and provide new tools for metabolic engineering of fruit quality.

SOURSI: Simultaneous manipulation of source and sink metabolism for improved crop yield

Lee Sweetlove (Oxford) leads this group that aims to understand the linkages between source and sink tissues in the assimilation of carbon and nitrogen. The project claims to implement a metabolic engineering strategy of unprecedented scale in plants exploiting the new technique of biolistic combinatorial co-transformation.

Onwards and Upwards for the Global Plant Council

Comments: No Comments
Published on: October 14, 2014
DSC08585 1000
Attendees at the Global Plant Council AGM (see end of post for details)

The 2014 Global Plant Council (GPC) annual general meeting (AGM) was held 2-3 October and hosted by the Society of Experimental Biology in London. GPC Individuals representing 22 member organisations from 5 continents gathered at Charles Darwin House to share updates and plan for the future.

Officially, the Global Plant Council is a coalition of plant and crop science societies from across the globe. It aims to provide a global voice for these societies, which individually represent scientists from specific countries, continents or sub-sets of plant science. During the AGM however, it became clear that in reality the GPC is a central hub, acting to instigate change in plant science research and application worldwide. This is a critical role; coordinated global action and a unified voice are essential for plant scientists to be able to effectively play a part in meeting the world challenges of hunger, energy, climate change, health and well-being, sustainability and environmental protection, which affect all of us.

The first day of the AGM was dedicated to sharing news and updates. Two working groups, who deal with Advocacy and Finance issues, praised the progress made by Ruth Bastow, the GPC’s first dedicated member of staff, since May 2013. (more…)

Investment in plant science training

Categories: funding
Comments: No Comments
Published on: October 7, 2014

The planet needs more plant scientists.

As a headline in The Scientist last week, this statement was unambiguously qualified by its ‘Opinion’ prefix. But for the UK plant sciences community it is a dangerous fact: the skills gaps in plant and agricultural sciences expertise and very limited plant science content on undergraduate courses were highlighted in the UKPSF report on the status of UK plant science.

The news that some 375 students will receive PhD training in agriculture and food security over the next five years is therefore very welcome. On Friday, Vince Cable announced the locations of 12 new Doctoral Training Partnerships, funded by a £125 million investment from BBSRC. 1250 PhD students will be trained, of which 30% (375) will be trained specifically in agricultural and food security science, 20% (250) will focus on industrial biotechnology and bioenergy, and 40% (500) on world-class ‘frontier’ bioscience – all areas in which plant science plays a key role. The remaining 10% (125) of students will work within BBSRC’s ‘Bioscience for Health’ theme.

We at GARNet are looking forward to seeing the impacts on plant science, from food security and bioenergy to the as yet unknown, that will come from the hundreds of plant scientists starting their training and careers in the next few years. As every student in the centres will have to do a funded three-month internship working in a different area from their PhD project, it will also be interesting to see how this impact spreads into areas like policy, funding and government over time.

Congratulations to all the organisations involved in the new Centres, lead by Imperial College London, the John Innes Centre, Newcastle University, University College London (not plant science), the University of Bristol, the University of Cambridge, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Leeds, the University of Manchester, the University of Nottingham, the University of Oxford and the University of Warwick.

Training and skills in the UK plant sciences community: Have your say

Categories: UKPSF
Comments: No Comments
Published on: September 4, 2014

The UK Plant Sciences Federation have set up working groups to follow up the recommendations made in their report, which was launched in January. The Training and Skills Working group is tackling school, university, post-graduate and early career issues in the plant science – definitely a broad scope. The Chair Simon Leather is trying out ‘crowd-sourcing’ with his working group, asking anyone who wants to contribute for their opinions and suggestions about the way forward.

In a post on his personal website, Simon Leather has given a lot of information about the current status of training and skills in the UK plant science community, the main problems highlighted in the report, comments from the first Working Group meeting and some ideas to help solve the problem.

Leather argues that action is imperative: Without a well-trained cadre of plant scientists that are able to recognise whole organisms and are able to interact with industry we will see more problems arising with invasive species, our crop production industry will be severely compromised and biodiversity loss will accelerate. 

Some of the ideas to improve training and skills in plant science discussed at the Working Group are:

  • Working with teachers to encourage children and young people to take an interest in plant science
  • Raising awareness in schools and universities of the opportunities provided by a background in plant sciences
  • Working with the Society of Biology degree accreditation scheme to make sure plant science is a part of accredited courses
  • Building stronger training links between academia and industry to ensure HE courses are fit for purpose

What do you think? Do you think these are the right areas to focus on? The Working Group has come up with reasonable actions to begin making progress. I strongly encourage you to read the whole article, and to have your say on the action plan and challenges by commenting on the article.

Along with the Working Groups on Funding, Regulation and Translation, the Training and Skills group will report at the UKPSF AGM on 20 November.

Go here to read the article and comment: http://simonleather.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/how-do-we-save-uk-plant-sciences/

Plant science podcasts: PlantSci 2014 and Radio 4

Categories: Friday Film, resource
Comments: No Comments
Published on: August 22, 2014

Just a quick blog post this week on some new plant science podcasts, for your entertainment! 

First, Radio 4’s much-retweeted Plants: From Roots to Riches. This programme has been running all month and ends today so it’s not really news, but I’ve been listening to this bit by bit and was delighted to hear a familiar voice in the ‘Signals of Growth‘ episode. Nick Harberd, one of our Advisory Committee members, discussed the Green Revolution wheat and rice varieties with presenter Kathy Willis.

This is a great series, although the episodes are quite short and only focus on a small area of plant science so I’d advise skipping any episodes on a topic you know too much about or that just isn’t of interest to you. Highlights for me so far have been the ‘Blight on the Landscape‘ episode about plant-microbe interactions, which had a very interesting section on Beatrix Potter’s work on lichens; and the episode based entirely around Kew’s Arboretum, ‘An Ill Wind‘, which gave me a new appreciation of the great value of tree science and forestry. 

Friday’s episode was about Arabidopsis – I haven’t reached that one yet though!

Second, videos of talks from the UK Plant Sciences Federation conference PlantSci 2014 are now available on the Journal of Experimental Botany YouTube channel. The talks were all excellent and the videos make good teaching resources. All the speakers pitched their science for a well-informed general audience, and all were clear about why their research is important. The highlight of the conference for me was the panel discussion about UK plant science challenges, achievements and future needs and I’m happy to see that it’s there in it’s entirety, including the comments from the floor – all 1 hour 27 minutes of it.

It’s been very quiet here on the blog recently, but we’re pretty much caught up after being away at the International Conference on Arabidopsis Research in Vancouver (you can still see the #ICAR2014 stream here). Things will be back to normal very soon.

 

Opportunities in plant science, via social media

Categories: Arabidopsis, Workshops
Comments: No Comments
Published on: March 5, 2014

I don’t usually put this kind of thing on the blog – it’s prime mailing list fodder. But I was writing a round-up post and this section got more than long enough for its own post!

If you’re on our ArabUK mailing list, you’ve probably noticed a flurry of activity this week. There are a lot of post-doc and other job opportunities out there at the moment – Oxford Brookes, Warwick, Birmingham and East Malling research are all recruiting. Further afield, I’ve spotted Arabidopsis post-doc vacancies in Wageningen and Alabama.

There are also two  fully funded workshops open to applications from early career researchers at the moment. Erik Murchie is co-organising a workshop in Thailand (Thailand!) and is looking for post-docs who work on abiotic stress physiology and genetics. Successful applicants will work with rice researchers from Thailand at a 4-day workshop, with the aim of improving understanding of oxidative stress in rice. Apply by 1 May.

Secondly, this synthetic biology summer school in Berlin looks like a great opportunity for PhD students and post-docs working on, or are on the periphery of, synthetic biology. It sounds like an interesting 5 days discussing how to ‘evaluate new techno-scientific areas’ and ‘analyse the societal dimensions of synthetic biology’. As an aside, if you get selected I highly recommend the Alternative Tour of Berlin – it might even give you some ideas for the workshop! This one is a tight deadline, applications close on 10 March.

All of these, including the job at Warwick, for which the advertiser is across the corridor from me, crossed my path on Twitter. If you’re looking for a job or training opportunities and/or want to keep up with news from the community, Twitter is definitely a good place to start. Just follow the right people – try the GARNet accounts (obviously! Me, Lisa, Ruth) and also Mary Williams, Anne Osterrieder, BSPP and UKPSF. Anne even has lists of categorised tweets, a great place to find relevant Twitter users.

You can just use Twitter for harvesting information. You don’t even have to fill out your profile, though you do need a username. But it can be a valuable tool for networking and the ‘branding’ that careers advisors sometimes talk about. Anne has a great paper in Plant Methods about how to use social media as a plant scientist. I use it to share plant science and occasional sci-fi links I come across that I think others will find interesting – if I read an article or paper, attend a good talk, or see a plant science job opportunity or conference.

In Photos: UK Plant Sciences Report Launch

Categories: UKPSF
Comments: No Comments
Published on: February 3, 2014

Thanks to Society of Biology Regional Coordinator David Urry for wielding the Society camera throughout the launch of the UKPSF report ‘UK Plant Science: Current Status and Future Challenges’, and letting me use some photos!

The GARNet website has a news piece on the launch, and tweets about the report are collected here

Not put off by the long, damp queue for the Faraday Lecture, the plant sciences community gathered in the Marble Hall at the Royal Society.

crowd 900

(more…)

Current Status and Future Challenges of UK Plant Science

Categories: GARNet, UKPSF
Comments: No Comments
Published on: January 28, 2014

status report cover

The UK Plant Sciences Federation released UK Plant Science: Current Status and Future Challenges today. It is the product of over a year’s work collecting data and viewpoints from across the UK plant science sector, from researchers like those in the GARNet community to industry scientists, managers in industry and academia, plant breeders and growers, policy-makers and educators.

The report contains the first ever assessment of activities across the UK’s plant science sector. It calls for a doubling of investment in plant science, which currently receives less than 4% of UK public research funding, and urges Government and industry to work together to achieve this.

Jim Beynon, GARNet representative to UKPSF and UKPSF Chair, says: “In addition to increased investment, we need a more concerted approach to ensuring progress in both fundamental scientific understanding and its application for all our benefit. This has not been the case for more than a decade and the adverse impact on skills supply, infrastructure and innovation is now becoming apparent.”

The whole GARNet team have contributed to the report, and we’re excited to be going to the official launch at the Royal Society – consider the above quote from Jim a preview of his speech this evening! We’ll post some photos here later in the week, but in the mean time you can follow the launch virtually on the #UKPSFReport Twitter stream.

«page 1 of 3

Follow Me
TwitterRSS
GARNetweets
May 2017
M T W T F S S
« Apr    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Welcome , today is Friday, May 26, 2017