Recently in the GARNet community…

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Published on: January 24, 2014

GARNet news

Lisa and I went to the Brassica Growers Association Conference on Tuesday. I wrote two posts on it over on the UK-BRC website, and Lisa put together a very informative Storify of tweets on the #BGAconference stream.

The UK Plant Sciences Federation has been collecting opinions, facts and data for the past year or so and is now ready to launch a report entitled UK Plant Science: Current Status and Future Challenges. Lisa and I helped out with this report so keep an eye out for it on Tuesday and let us know what you think!

I went to the SEB Synthetic Biology conference last week and have written a short report for the SEB Bulletin about it – I’ll share it when it is published. There was some excellent plant science there. Antonio Scialdone presented the plant-arithmatic work from Martin Howard’s lab – you can read his open access 2013 paper modelling starch degredation over night here (Scialdone et al., eLife 2013;2:e00669). Oliver Ebenhoeh discussed how mathematical models for photosynthesis and plant metabolism can help synthetic biology be done in plants and other photosynthetic organisms.

 

On the GARNet website

If you missed some January funding deadlines, there are plenty more opportunities to submit your proposal – take a look at the funding round-up on our website for ideas for fellowships, travel, collaborations or straightforward research grants.

Lisa is continuing to write her weekly Arabidopsis research round-up, which you can find on the GARNet news pages. It’s the best way to keep informed of what fellow UK Arabidopsis researchers are up to. This week, papers from GARNet committee members Heather Knight and Cyril Zipfel feature.

 

Your chance to present your work

PlantSci 2014 is in York on 31 March/1 April, and abstract submission is open until the end of February. There are two £200 cash prizes to be won by early career researchers giving short talks, so make sure you submit an abstract! There won’t be a traditional poster session, but delegates are invited to bring mini-posters to discuss during the networking sessions. Abstracts for the mini-posters will be included in the abstract book.

Further away in September, GARNet 2014 is your second chance to present your work at either a poster session or as a short talk. Registration and abstract submission are both open, and news about special opportunities for students will be coming very soon.

Finally, I’ve been reliably informed that the FSPB/EPSO Plant Biology Conference organisers are looking for proposals for short talks for the Big Data in Plant Science session, so if you’re planning on going and do ‘big data,’ think about submitting an abstract!

Celebrating basic plant science with David Baulcombe

Categories: UKPSF
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Published on: May 10, 2013

 

Barbara McClintock discovered transposable elements when investigating irregular colouring in maize.

It’s now nearly a month since UK PlantSci 2013, and high time I wrote something about it on this blog. Rebecca Nesbit has written two posts about it already on the Society of Biology blog, and a New Phytologist meeting report will be coming out soon. The Weeding the Gems contribution to this collection of UK PlantSci nostalgia is a write-up of the second keynote talk by David Baulcombe.

David Baulcombe’s talk was a rallying cry in defence of basic research and plant science. He kicked it off with a whistle-stop history of important scientific achievements, all by scientists carrying out basic research on plants: Robert Hooke, who identified and labelled ‘cells’ for the first time when studying woody plant biomass in 1665; 19th century monk Gregor Mendel, whose peas were the first genetic model system; Russian botanist Dmitri Iwanowsk, who in 1892 was the first scientist to identify and characterise a virus; and Barbara McClintock, who discovered transposable elements in maize. More recently even than McClintock’s work, Argonaute proteins, tumour formation, and cellular totipotency were all identified first in plants (Bohmert et al. 1998, EMBO 17:170; Sussex 2008, Plant Cell 20:1189).

The scientists involved in the discoveries listed above were carrying out what they presumably viewed as interesting work, simply because they wanted to know the answer – pure science, but all with far-reaching consequences. Baulcombe commented than in the 21st Century research is impact-driven, so some of these pioneers may have struggled to get funding via today’s funding mechanisms.

Now, it is unfair to say that research today is all end-product focussed and impact driven. I know that the BBSRC and other funders worldwide fund basic plant science research regularly, and I highlight some of it here on this blog. Baulcombe’s main point in this first half of the talk was that basic excellent plant science research has to be celebrated in its own right rather than as a half-way point to a useful product in the future. (more…)

Dundee’s week of plant science conferences

Categories: conferences, UKPSF
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Published on: April 23, 2013

Well, what felt like the biggest week of the year for UK plant science is now over. Last week, the UK Plant Phenomics Network meetingUK PlantSci 2013, and Monogram all happened at the University of Dundee. It was a whirlwind week of inspirational talks, updates, people, and a drop or two of Scottish whiskey.

PlantSci 2013 was the second annual conference organised by the UK Plant Sciences Federation. Representatives from fields as wide-ranging as basic and applied research, industry, molecular biology, ecology, and science communication spoke to an auditorium packed with people from all stages of their careers.

I have committed myself to no less than 3 write-ups of PlantSci 2013, so I won’t blog about it here, but I will do my best to write up David Baulcombe’s keynote talk as soon as I can. As far as I know, it hasn’t had a write-up yet and was very inspirational. However, until I can share my reports, there are plenty of PlantSci-related media to immerse yourself in.

The extraordinarily talented Rebecca Nesbit of the Society of Biology managed to write-up two sessions of PlantSci 2013 while live-tweeting. Her post on the first keynote talk, ‘Feeding 10 Billion People on a Finite Planet’ is here and her second post, on the Inspiring Future Generations session, is here.

At one point the conference hashtag #plantsci2013 was one of the most used phrases on Twitter! Twitter coverage of the conference extended well beyond the lecture theatre in Dundee as people all over the world followed the conference by the live-tweets and interacted with delegates who were present. For a fairly comprehensive overview of all the talks and the conference in general, take a look at the Storify I made of the Twitter feed. The shortlinks in the tweets will take you to papers or resources the speakers mentioned in their talks.

Monogram is the annual conference on UK small grain cereal and grass research, again attended by breeders and other stakeholders as well as basic and applied researchers. The Monogram blog will soon have a post about the conference, but in the mean time the Storify of tweets from the meeting is here.

Image credit: left image, Anne Osterrieder, right image, Charis Cook

 

Ready for UK PlantSci 2013

Categories: Friday Film, UKPSF
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Published on: April 12, 2013

To whet your appetite for next week’s UK PlantSci 2013 conference in Dundee, here are clips of the keynote speakers Charles Godfray (University of Oxford) and David Baulcombe (University of Cambridge). I think that the Godfray clip can be considered a very unofficial ‘preview’ of his keynote lecture Feeding 10 Billion People on a Finite Planet, which will be on Tuesday morning. David Baulcombe’s interview probably isn’t linked to his Of maize and men or peas and people lecture on Wednesday morning, but it is still a good watch – an interesting and balanced discussion about GM.

If you’re not coming up to Dundee, you can still keep up with these talks and all the others live on the Twitter hashtag #PlantSci2013. I’ll post the blog posts and reports about the conference here once they’ve trickled out, too.

 

Video credits: The Oxford Martin School and LEAF

Ash Dieback News

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Published on: February 21, 2013

 

This video is an introduction to a series of filmed talks from the Forestry Commission Plant Health Conference. It introduces the ash dieback problem nicely and places it in a wider context. A number of experts give their opinions on how to approach combatting the disease.

Another new tree health resource is the UKPSF’s Ash Dieback web resource, which was launched this week. Mimi Tanimoto, Executive Officer of the UKPSF, said, “Speaking to scientists who wanted to do something to help combat ash dieback, I found a recurring problem that they were unsure of what else was happening. It was clear that by joining up the various projects we could better tackle the disease.” The website will be updated regularly with news, and it is possible to sign up on the site to receive these updates via email. Anyone who has news that they would like added to the site can contact Mimi at mimitanimoto@societyofbiology.org.

The final piece of ash dieback news is that the Open Ash Dieback project, which crowdsources genome analysis of ash trees and the fungal pathogen Chalara fraxinea,published their first paper last week. Crowdsourcing genomic analyses of ash and ash dieback – power to the people by researchers from several UK universities, lead by two groups at the Sainsbury Laboratory, was published in GigaScience 2:2 doi:10.1186/2047-217X-2-2.

Travel grants for conferences

Categories: funding
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Published on: January 30, 2013

There are a lot of good conferences coming up this year, some small and some very big; some free and some rather more expensive. If you are put off by registration or accommodation fees, you don’t have to be. There are grants available for people to travel to conferences and workshops, and I’ve listed some below. I haven’t mentioned grants for specific conferences, but most learned societies offer grants for students and new post-docs to attend their events. Please let me know in the comments or via email (charis @ garnetcommunity.org.uk) or Twitter if you know of any general funds which I haven’t listed.

Not that I’m biased (of course…) but the GARNet workshop on Plant Synthetic Biology and UK PlantSci 2013 are excellent opportunities to use these funds! Plant Synthetic Biology registration starts from £175 for students, including accommodation, lunches, and conference dinner. Early bird registration for PlantSci 2013 starts from £80 for students, including lunch and refreshments, but you will have to arrange your own accommodation.

Company of Biologists travel grants from the Society of Experimental Biology: if you’re a PhD student or young post-doc, apply by 31 March for funding to attend a UK or international conference. You have to be a member of SEB, or to buy a multi-year membership.

Society of Biology travel grants: Undergraduate and postgraduate students can apply for £500 for overseas travel in connection with biological study, teaching, research, or attending conference.

Honor Fell travel award from the British Society for Cell Biology, sponsored by the Company of Biologists: grants of up to £300 for UK meeting attendance, or more for international meetings, are available to students and post-docs.

Biochemical Society travel grant: Members of the Biochemical Society can apply for a travel grant between £200 and £500 to attend a meeting.

Genetics Society Junior Scientist Grants: up to £750 is available to PhD students and post-docs within two years of their viva to cover travel, accommodation, and registration cost for conferences and meetings. There are quarterly deadlines, you will need to apply by 1 Feb for spring conferences.

The British Society of Plant Pathology: Travel funds are available for BSPP members to assist with expenses for conferences, study tours and visits. The amount available varies, but will not be more than half the cost of your trip. The next deadline in 28 February.

If you’re a student, you can use your training grant to pay for conference fees and travel. Attending and presenting posters or talks at conferences is an important part of a PhD studentship.

Your institution may have a conference fund for student and post-doc travel to conferences, so speak to the graduate school or your supervisor if you want to find out more.

This fund is only applicable to Biochemical Society meetings but it is an excellent initiative, and definitely worth highlighting. If you want to go to a Biochemical Society meeting but you’re on parental leave, or need to take your children and a carer with you to a conference, apply for a Stay Connected bursary. The bursary will cover free registration and/or free accommodation for a child care provider.

Developmental genetics with Zoe Wilson

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Published on: January 18, 2013

In the fourth of our series of video podcasts from PlantSci 2012, Zoe Wilson from the University of Nottingham discusses about her work on Arabidopsis developmental genetics. She works on pollen, which she explains is important for food security and the cut flower industry. Like the previous interviewees Eric, Katherine, and John, she also talks about the future of plant science. She says, “The link between plants and science had been quite tenuous, more people are understanding the importance of that.”

Plant disease resistance with Eric Holub

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Published on: January 11, 2013

Here, Eric Holub from the University of Warwick describes his research on the genetics of disease resistance mechanisms as well as a bit about life in academic research in the UK. He explains the real-world application of his research on the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana by saying, “If the plant can control its own diseases, chemical control will be be much less required.”

This is the third video podcast taken at the UK PlantSci conference in 2012. See the previous ones with John Runions and Katherine Denby here and here. To register for UK PlantSci 2013, go to the website.

 

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