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Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education)
Hooks and hot topics for university teachers and students
Curated by Mary Williams
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Life in focus

Life in focus | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
Single-celled photosynthetic bacteria determine the direction of incoming light by acting as lenses.
Mary Williams's insight:

Summary of a new article in eLife - pretty cool!

http://elifesciences.org/content/5/e12620

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Plant Molecular Genetics video lecture series

Plant Molecular Genetics video lecture series | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Previously we shared a list of videos spanning the plant biology part of an introductory biology course at the University of California at Berkeley. A reader shared a link to another plant biology course taught at Berkeley, the Plant Molecular Genetics (PMB160) course, taught in 2012 by Jenn Fletcher and Bob FischerHere is an annotated list of all 37 videos recorded from that course. 

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Holding Their Ground | The Scientist Magazine®

Holding Their Ground | The Scientist Magazine® | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
To protect the global food supply, scientists want to understand—and enhance—plants’ natural resistance to pathogens.
Mary Williams's insight:

Excellent, accessible article in The Scientist

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The genome of the seagrass Zostera marina reveals angiosperm adaptation to the sea : Nature : Nature Publishing Group

The genome of the seagrass Zostera marina reveals angiosperm adaptation to the sea : Nature : Nature Publishing Group | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

"Seagrasses colonized the sea on at least three independent occasions to form the basis of one of the most productive and widespread coastal ecosystems on the planet. Here we report the genome of Zostera marina (L.), the first, to our knowledge, marine angiosperm to be fully sequenced. This reveals unique insights into the genomic losses and gains involved in achieving the structural and physiological adaptations required for its marine lifestyle, arguably the most severe habitat shift ever accomplished by flowering plants. Key angiosperm innovations that were lost include the entire repertoire of stomatal genes, genes involved in the synthesis of terpenoids and ethylene signalling, and genes for ultraviolet protection and phytochromes for far-red sensing."

Mary Williams's insight:

This is a really interesting paper! Seagrass - the dolphins of the plant kingdom (from sea to land and back to sea).

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The botanical roadmap to nowhere: Legal definition needed for real clarity

The botanical roadmap to nowhere: Legal definition needed for real clarity | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
If the European Commission’s regulatory rethink is to provide any meaningful improvement for the botanical industry, it must set a clear legal definition of...

Via Meristemi
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Explore the New York Public Libraries Digital Collections

Explore the New York Public Libraries Digital Collections | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Explore the New York Public Libraries Digital Collections!
Whether you teach, lecture, write or just like to share, it's always great to find a collection of public domain images. This newly- released set of hundreds of thousands of items from the New York Public Libraries' digital collection is full of photos and drawings that are relevant to plants, plant science and agriculture. Useful!

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How Mold on Space Station Flowers is Helping Get Us to Mars

How Mold on Space Station Flowers is Helping Get Us to Mars | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
The unexpected turns experienced during this Veggie run have actually offered bountiful opportunities for new learning and better understanding of one of the critical components to future journeys to Mars.
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Can genetic engineering help quench crops’ thirst?

Can genetic engineering help quench crops’ thirst? | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
Researchers around the world are exploring how GMO technology might boost food production under hot, dry conditions.
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How to reach a wider audience for your research

How to reach a wider audience for your research | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
Juan Pablo Alperin & Alessandra Bordini with tips for using ‘altmetrics’ to learn about and engage with audiences.
Mary Williams's insight:

This is excellent! I encourage everyone to read it and think about how to implement some of these ideas.

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Small Changes in Teaching: The First 5 Minutes of Class

Small Changes in Teaching: The First 5 Minutes of Class | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
Four quick ways to shift students’ attention from life’s distractions to your course content.
Mary Williams's insight:
I completely agree - the first five minutes of class time are so important for establishing student engagement
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When Two Make One: The Uses and Importance of Plant Grafting - the Node

When Two Make One: The Uses and Importance of Plant Grafting - the Node | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

"Used for thousands of years but grafting remains mysterious For millennia, people have cut and joined different plant varieties or species together by a process known as grafting."

Mary Williams's insight:

Blog post by Charles Melnyk describing his recent paper in Current Biology,

Melnyk, C.W., Schuster, C., Leyser, O., and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2015). A Developmental Framework for Graft Formation and Vascular Reconnection in Arabidopsis thaliana. Current biology : CB 25, 1306-1318.

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Millet: How A Trendy Ancient Grain Turned Nomads Into Farmers

Millet: How A Trendy Ancient Grain Turned Nomads Into Farmers | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
Hardy, nutritious and gluten-free, millet has become an "it" grain in recent years. Research reveals our ancestors relied on it: Millet was central to the rise of agriculture and farming communities.
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We Need a New Green Revolution

We Need a New Green Revolution | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
The United States needs to increase research in agriculture to feed a growing world population in a warming world.
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Science writing internship at Genes to Genomes

Science writing internship at Genes to Genomes | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
a blog from the Genetics Society of America
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Turning Plants into Drug Factories

Turning Plants into Drug Factories | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
Researchers are developing GM plants that can be used as pharmaceutical biofactories to produce inexpensive, ingestible medicines

Via Meristemi
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A novel ’4D printing’ method inspired by plants

A novel ’4D printing’ method inspired by plants | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Harvard University scientists have evolved their microscale 3D printing technology to the fourth dimension, time. Inspired by natural structures like plants, which respond and change their form over time according to environmental stimuli, the team has designed 4D-printed hydrogel composite structures that change shape upon immersion in water. The team is located at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.


“This work represents an elegant advance in programmable materials assembly, made possible by a multidisciplinary approach,” said Jennifer Lewis, Sc.D., senior author of a new study reported on January 25 in a new  in Nature Materials. “We have now gone beyond integrating form and function to create transformable architectures.”


In nature, flowers and plants have tissue compositions and microstructures that result in dynamic morphologies (forms) that change according to their environments. Mimicking the variety of shape changes undergone by plant organs such as tendrils, leaves, and flowers in response to environmental stimuli like humidity and/or temperature, the 4D-printed hydrogel composites developed by Lewis and her team are programmed to contain precise, localized swelling behaviors.


The trick: the hydrogel composites contain cellulose fibrils that are derived from wood and are similar to the microstructures that enable shape changes in plants. By aligning cellulose fibrils during printing, the hydrogel composite ink is encoded with anisotropic swelling and stiffness, which can be patterned to produce intricate shape changes. The anisotropic (irregular) nature of the cellulose fibrils gives rise to varied directional properties that can be predicted and controlled. That’s why wood can be split easier along the grain rather than across it.


Likewise, when immersed in water, the hydrogel-cellulose fibril ink undergoes differential swelling behavior along and orthogonal to the printing path. Combined with a proprietary mathematical model developed by the team that predicts how a 4D object must be printed to achieve prescribed transformable shapes, the new method opens up many new and exciting potential applications for 4D printing technology including smart textiles, soft electronics, biomedical devices, and tissue engineering.


The composite ink that the team uses flows like liquid through the printhead, yet rapidly solidifies once printed. A variety of hydrogel materials can be used interchangeably resulting in different stimuli-responsive behaviors, while the cellulose fibrils can be replaced with other anisotropic fillers of choice, including conductive fillers. The mathematical model prescribes the printing pathways required to achieve the desired shape-transforming response. Specifically, it solves the “inverse problem” — the challenge of being able to predict what the printing toolpath must be to encode swelling behaviors toward achieving a specific desired target shape.


“It is wonderful to be able to design and realize, in an engineered structure, some of nature’s solutions,” said L. Mahadevan, Ph.D., a Wyss Core Faculty member as well as the Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and Professor of Physics at Harvard University and Harvard SEAS, is a co-author on the study. “By solving the inverse problem, we are now able to reverse-engineer the problem and determine how to vary local inhomogeneity, i.e. the spacing between the printed ink filaments, and the anisotropy, i.e. the direction of these filaments, to control the spatiotemporal response of these shapeshifting sheets.”


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Women in Food: Farmer of the Year Amy Hepworth Advocates for a ‘Third Way’

Women in Food: Farmer of the Year Amy Hepworth Advocates for a ‘Third Way’ | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
Amy Hepworth’s life’s passion is feeding people. Back in 1982, Cornell University degree in pomology fresh in hand, she took the reins of Hepworth Farms
Mary Williams's insight:

"The real goal has to be to feed everyone and do it in the least negative way possible." - well said!

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World heritage forests burn as global tragedy unfolds in Tasmania

World heritage forests burn as global tragedy unfolds in Tasmania | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
‘Devastating’ long-term prognosis for ancient Gondwana ecosystem as bushfires turn trees more than 1,000 years old to tinder
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Introductory plant biology video lecture series

Introductory plant biology video lecture series | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Have you been looking for high-quality, university-level introductory plant biology videos? There are not many available on topics other than photosynthesis and pollination.

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The fate of photons absorbed by phytoplankton in the global ocean

The fate of photons absorbed by phytoplankton in the global ocean | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Sometimes it seems like we're teaching our students a bunch of facts and equations for no reason, so it's nice to come upon a paper that applies all those concepts. If your plant physiology students are learning about photosynthesis, here's an article that shows them why that's useful.

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Little shop of horrors: the Australian plants that can kill you

Little shop of horrors: the Australian plants that can kill you | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

It's not just Australia's animals that can be deadly, there are plenty of dangerous plants too -follow the link for the full story, by Ben Moore.

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Students communicate their results

Students communicate their results | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Advice on helping students learn to write up the results of their experiments (for high school students, but universally applicable)

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The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene

The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Good paper for students - http://www.sciencemag.org/content/351/6269/aad2622
A team of scientists assembled data from diverse sources to make the claim that it is time to formally (i.e. by the International Commission on Stratigraphy) declare ourselves in a new epoch, the Anthropocene. Epoch's typically last millions of years and are only ended by extreme events; in this case the overwhelming changes in the Earth brought about by human activities.

The summary is available w/o subscription, as is this overview from the Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/…/human-impact-has-pushed-earth-…) but you'll need a subscription to Science to read the full paper.

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It's practically impossible to define "GMOs"

It's practically impossible to define "GMOs" | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
The more you look into it, the more you find that there is no way to sensibly draw a line around a class of foods and say they contain GMOs.
Mary Williams's insight:

From Nathanael Johnson in Grist. A good exploration of various efforts to define "GMO" (and their limitations). Useful for class discussions!

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athanrod's curator insight, January 6, 4:13 AM

Does classification limit our knowledge?

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Scientists teach bacterium a new trick for artificial photosynthesis

Scientists teach bacterium a new trick for artificial photosynthesis | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
Trainers of dogs, horses, and other animal performers take note: a bacterium named Moorella thermoacetica has been induced to perform only a single trick, but it's a doozy. Berkeley Lab researchers are using M. thermoacetica ...
Mary Williams's insight:

Very clever

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