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Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education)
Hooks and hot topics for university teachers and students
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Nature: Tolerance of phosphorus deficiency in traditional rice

Nature: Tolerance of phosphorus deficiency in traditional rice | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Phosphorus is a limiting nutrient in soil, and globally. This new Nature article, by a group of researchers at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and collaborators, identifies a gene from traditional rice varieties that confers tolerance to phosphorus limitation.

Furthermore,

"Here we show that overexpression of PSTOL1 in [modern] varieties significantly enhances grain yield in phosphorus-deficient soil. Further analyses show that PSTOL1 acts as an enhancer of early root growth, thereby enabling plants to acquire more phosphorus and other nutrients."

 

Here's the News and Views analysis

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v488/n7412/full/488466a.html

and the article

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v488/n7412/full/nature11346.html

 

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(OA) Plant Cell: Ontogeny of the Maize Shoot Apical Meristem. Peering deeply into the developing SAM

(OA) Plant Cell: Ontogeny of the Maize Shoot Apical Meristem. Peering deeply into the developing SAM | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

What is a meristem and where does it come from? How about looking at all the genes expressed before and during meristem organization!

 

"Laser microdissection of apical domains from developing maize embryos and seedlings was combined with RNA sequencing for transcriptomic analyses of SAM ontogeny. Molecular markers of key events during maize embryogenesis are described, and comprehensive transcriptional data from six stages in maize shoot development are generated."

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Science communication - "Listen more". Dan Kahan, and an appeal for help

Science communication - "Listen more". Dan Kahan, and an appeal for help | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Dan Kahan has some provacative ideas about science communication. You can find his ideas in a Nature essay here: http://www.nature.com/news/why-we-are-poles-apart-on-climate-change-1.11166

and

a Nature climate change article here: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate1547.html

 

And  in a very engaging 16 minute video here, from a talk he gave at the recent Sackler Symposium on science communication: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5fBkivqa78

 

Take home message: Want to communicate better? Listen more.

 

Have ideas?

This from a group of Australian scientists who are working towards improved communication about climate change, and they want to hear your thoughts about their approach.

http://theconversation.edu.au/help-needed-can-you-fix-the-science-society-divide-8752

 

"At the heart of this is a recognition that if we scientists are going to contribute to solving the world’s problems, then we’re going to have to start paying more attention to the people who will use our research. We’re going to have to start listening."

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Gene Silencing in Arabidopsis Spreads from Root to Shoot, through nonvascular, Cell-to-Cell Movement

Gene Silencing in Arabidopsis Spreads from Root to Shoot, through nonvascular, Cell-to-Cell Movement | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

This is from Plant Physiology in May (OA) and it's very interesting. I like the fact that it uses a cool, high-tech appraoch to address a pretty fundmental question about how things move in plants - it's a good one for students.

 

And don't miss this new review from Plant Science: "“And yet it moves”: Cell-to-cell and long-distance signaling by plant microRNAs" here http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168945212001525 (thanks @iSargantana!)

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For sale: Journal Cover Posters -Plant Cell and Plant Physiology. $10 or 6 for $50, includes postage

For sale: Journal Cover Posters -Plant Cell and Plant Physiology. $10 or 6 for $50, includes postage | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Great gifts!

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Training: Workshops that work : Naturejobs

Training: Workshops that work : Naturejobs | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
Seminars on career alternatives and soft skills can provide crucial tips for advancement. But some workshops are more helpful than others.
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YES! A computational image analysis glossary for biologists ($)

YES! A computational image analysis glossary for biologists ($) | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

This "Primer" from Development explains tools and terms used in microscopy, with an empahasis on computational analyses of the images.(http://dev.biologists.org/content/139/17/3071.abstract?etoc)

 

Also see this article from Nature Reviews Molecular Cellular Biology for examples of these approaches to examine Arabidopsis development (http://www.nature.com/nrm/journal/v12/n4/full/nrm3079.html)

 

A pair of very good articles to read with your advanced students, just in time for the new academic year.

 

Here's a complementary article from TIPS: http://www.cell.com/trends/plant-science/abstract/S1360-1385%2812%2900168-9 "How does a plant scientist with no detailed knowledge or experience of image analysis methods choose the right tool(s) for the task at hand, or satisfy themselves that a suggested approach is appropriate? "

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Speaking of roots...Ann of Bot special issue "Root Biology" July 2012

Speaking of roots...Ann of Bot special issue "Root Biology" July 2012 | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Here's a collection of articles about roots - everything from evolution and development to interactions with the soil microbiota,  stress communcation  via root systems, and an examination of why shallow-rooted plants have highly restricted distributions. 

Table of Contents is here http://aob.oxfordjournals.org/content/110/2.toc

And an annotated overview is here: http://aob.oxfordjournals.org/content/110/2/i.full

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Identity recognition in plants - Plant Science Review

Identity recognition in plants - Plant Science Review | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

You're probably familiar with the idea that plants have self-incompatibility (SI) mechanisms to avoid inbreeding (If not, here are a couple of recent reviews: http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.arplant.56.032604.144249 and http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-8137.2005.01443.x/abstract). SI has evolved independently several times in angiosperms. Two systems, the gametophytic and the sporophytic, have been thorougly characterized at the molecular level and involve the expression of polymorphic proteins on the pistil and the pollen.

 

At the other end of the plant, there is accumulating evidence for a mechanism for self-identity, and perhaps even for the recognition of closely related kin. Recognition of kin or self could help plants avoid limiting their fitness by competing for nutrients in the soil with themselves or those that share their genetic makeup. A nicely written review article is out in Plant Science that summarizes the results of numerous ecological studies as well as studies to investigate what kinds of signals could be involved in kin and self recognition in roots.

 

Chen, B.J.W., During, H.J. and Anten, N.P.R. (2012). Detect thy neighbor: Identity recognition at the root level in plants. Plant Science. 195: 157-167.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168945212001495

 

We've got a Teaching Tool coming out later this year that addresses questions of how plants perceive and respond to other plants, through competition for light and nutrients (or avoidence of competition), as well as "cooperative" interactions. These interactions are important in maintaining ecosystem diversity and productivity, and also in addressing the challenges of increased productivity in agriculture through increased plant densities.

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Information Is Beautiful Awards - displaying data with impact

Information Is Beautiful Awards - displaying data with impact | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Scientists have a lot to learn from designers about how to use graphic design to convey information.

Here are some examples of high-impact data presentations to inspire your students to new heights.

 

Topics include "Who are the next generation of scientists" (http://www.informationisbeautifulawards.com/gallery/who-is-the-next-generation-of-scientists/)

 

"Food for thought" about GM plants

(http://www.informationisbeautifulawards.com/gallery/food-for-thought/) and here it is in a form you can read (http://www.behance.net/gallery/Food-For-Thought/2131208)

 

and "The American energy spectrum" (http://www.informationisbeautifulawards.com/gallery/the-american-energy-spectrum-infographic/),

here it is with flash (http://awesome.good.is/transparency/web/1101/good-energy/interactive.html)

 

Some of them are just interesting, like the origins of surnames in the US (http://www.informationisbeautifulawards.com/gallery/whats-in-a-surname/), and "Biggest lies in dating" (e.g. "money doesn't matter") http://www.informationisbeautifulawards.com/gallery/biggest-lies-in-dating/)

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You never know what to expect from Google: Here's something unexpected for "Serotiny (May Our Music)"- Dave McGraw & Mandy Fer

But if they want to write a song called "Serotiny", I'll link to their video! Apparently the song is from the album "Seed of a pine"...

 

"Serotiny (May Our Music) " Performed by Dave McGraw & Mandy Fer http://www.daveandmandymusic.com Andrew Lauher on drums, Matt Germansen on bass Recorded at Coconino Center for the Arts, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

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Sci Ed — Georgia State University

Sci Ed — Georgia State University | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
A tiny worm can tell scientists much about genetics. And recently, the worm, Caenorhabditis elegans, helped teachers from Atlanta metro area schools learn ways to bring science, mathematics and English together to make a difference in the classroom.
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Exclusive: Fungal Wars of The World - The rejected Nature cover!

Exclusive: Fungal Wars of The World - The rejected Nature cover! | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

In exclusive, here is the now famous cover that was "rejected" by Nature - as narrated in the Science article "Attack of the Clones":

 

"When Nature recently accepted a review co-authored by Sarah Gurr, the plant pathologist from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom sent the journal a self-produced image to consider for its cover. It shows a fungus looking like one of those colossal, menacing tripods from H. G. Wells's War of the Worlds, stalking through a field, with bats, frogs, and toads fleeing before it in a crazed panic. “Fungal Wars of the World,” Gurr called it. The picture didn't make it, but many scientists agree with its message: Fungi have now become a greater global threat to crops, forests, and wild animals than ever before..."

 

The cover was designed by Prof. Sarah Gurr and PhD student Sarah McCraw, University of Oxford. Check Sarah Gurr's website at http://dps.plants.ox.ac.uk/plants/staff/sarahgurr.aspx


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Emerging infectious diseases caused by fungi threaten bats, amphibia, potatoes, wheat, elms and ash trees. Chances are we haven't seen the half of it. See the original article here:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v484/n7393/full/nature10947.html

 

... and a summary here:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/337/6095/636.full

 

but let's not forget that some fungi are our friends:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/337/6101/1452.1.full

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PLOS Biology: “Why Do We Have to Learn This Stuff?”—A New Genetics for 21st Century Students

PLOS Biology: “Why Do We Have to Learn This Stuff?”—A New Genetics for 21st Century Students | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

I like this approach. Instead of sitting down with a textbook and designing a course, sit down and think about what makes the most sense to teach your students, now, with an emphasis on contemporary questions and methods. That's what we're doing with Teaching Tools in Plant Biology! Furtheremore, by following a different trajectory than high school courses, students won't feel that they're repeating material, and be more attentive.

 

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PLoS Genetics: How PRR proteins recognize RNA sequences

PLoS Genetics: How PRR proteins recognize RNA sequences | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Yet another code cracked! 

 

The authors introduce this paper by referring to earlier findings that DNA sequences bound by TALE proteins correspond to sequence of the protein, meaning that site-specific DNA proteins can be designed.

 

This new article uncovers the code that confers the specificity by which PPR (pentatricopeptide repeat) proteins bind RNA, paving the way for designed RNA-binding proteins.

 

Here is their conclusion:

"PPR proteins play essential roles in all eucaryotes by enabling the expression of specific mitochondrial and chloroplast genes. Even for well-studied PPR proteins ... the exact binding sites still await discovery. The results and approaches described here offer the potential to eliminate this bottleneck by permitting candidate sites to be postulated from simple sequence analysis, providing information that will have broad application in the medical and agricultural sciences".

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Nature Insight: Chemistry and Energy. Good set of review articles

Nature Insight: Chemistry and Energy. Good set of review articles | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Don't miss this excellent collection of review articles from Nature this week, including a very interesting review about algal biofuel production.

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Can a chemistry lab be taught by distance learning? YES it can! CHM-107 LAB Home Page

Can a chemistry lab be taught by distance learning? YES it can! CHM-107 LAB Home Page | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Here is a brilliant example of how to make science engaging and accessible. It's an introductory chemistry course with a focus on chemistry, society and the environment. Students have to buy a kit, but then carry out the investigations at home. The investigations themselves focus on the chemistry of the home environment, including analysis of tap water, ozone, car exhaust etc.

 

If you're not convinced, check out the pictures of the students doing the at-home labs: Notice that this format allows the students to share the experience with friends and children!

http://www.chemistryland.com/CHM107Lab/StudentsDoingChemistry/ExportingChemistry.htm

 

A priori I don't think that distance learning can fully match the experience of meeting with a class and instructor, but I'm also aware that many universities are severely cutting out the lab component of their curriculum due to budget cuts. I think this course can inspire us to think creatively about the possibility of developing an at-home introductory-level lab curriculum.

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Ask your students - what happens when the parasite meets the symbiont!

Ask your students - what happens when the parasite meets the symbiont! | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

We've seen lots of studies of how parasitic plants find and attach to host plants, and the interactions between host plants and symbiotic arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, but what happens to the host plant when you first inoculate the parasite with the AM fungi?

This would be a good question to pose to your students - it requires synthesis and analysis, higher-order thinking! Find the answer here and in this paper from Annals of Botnay http://aob.oxfordjournals.org/content/109/6/1075

 

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Plasma Membrane Cyclic Nucleotide Gated Calcium Channels Control Land Plant Thermal Sensing and Acquired Thermotolerance

Plasma Membrane Cyclic Nucleotide Gated Calcium Channels Control Land Plant Thermal Sensing and Acquired Thermotolerance | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

A plasma membrane located calcium channel functions as a thermosensor in moss and Arabidopsis - lovely article!

 

Here it is:

http://www.plantcell.org/content/early/2012/08/15/tpc.112.095844.abstract

 

And here is an "In Brief" summary of the article

http://www.plantcell.org/content/early/2012/08/15/tpc.112.240810.full.pdf+html

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Sensing in Nature, edited by Carlos López-Larrea

Sensing in Nature, edited by Carlos López-Larrea | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Here's a new, well-written book that pulls together information about sensory systems from all the kingdoms. I tracked it down for this excellent up-to-date review   "Molecular Plant Volatile Communication" by Jarmo K. Holopainen and James D. Blande (http://www.landesbioscience.com/curie/chapter/4935/), but can't resist "Thermosensing in Eubactiera" "Identifying Self- and Nonself-Generated Signals: Lessons from Electrosensory Systems" and "Magnetoreception", and "The Molecular Basis of Mechanosensory Transduction". It's fascinating stuff!

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Plant vs iPhone, via @HowPlantsWork

Plant vs iPhone, via @HowPlantsWork | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

We often introduce topics in plant biology by drawing analogies to similar processes in animals. This approach works because it connects something familiar to the new material, which is important for understanding and retention.  As an example, we might talk about photoreceptors in the eye to introduce phytochrome and other plant photoreceptors.

 

Here's another approach that works equally well, and has the advantage of being a little different, and a little techy / geeky - "Which is more intellegent? An iPhone or a plant?" from the blog How Plants Work (www.howplantswork.com/). It covers topics including light sensors, proximity sensors, accelerometers and gyroscopes / gravity sensors. What a great way to start off your fall semester courses!

 

(I'm an android user, but I guess they're not very different inside? iPhone is to android as what is to what - Arabidopsis to maize?) ( I hear a more accurate comparison would be as Oryza sativa japonica is to Oryza sativa indica....)

 

The blog post is in four parts:

 

http://www.howplantswork.com/2010/06/21/which-is-more-intelligent-an-iphone-or-a-plant/

http://www.howplantswork.com/2010/06/25/which-is-more-intelligent-an-iphone-or-a-plant-part-2/

http://www.howplantswork.com/2010/06/26/which-is-more-intelligent-an-iphone-or-a-plant-part-3/

http://www.howplantswork.com/2010/06/28/which-is-more-intelligent-an-iphone-or-a-plant-part-4/

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Two tenure-track Assistant Professor of Biology positions at the Claremont Colleges, California

Two tenure-track Assistant Professor of Biology positions at the Claremont Colleges, California | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Here are two job ads for very good positions at highly selective Primarily Undergraduate Institutions in southern California. Pomona College, one of the top liberal arts colleges in the US, is looking for a Plant Physiologist (http://www.pomona.edu/administration/academic-dean/faculty-jobs.aspx).

Harvey Mudd College, a liberal arts college of science and engineering, is looking for a Computational/Mathematical Biologist (http://www.hmc.edu/about1/administrativeoffices/deanoffaculty1/facultypostions.html), which includes those who study plants.

 

Both Colleges are part of the Claremont Colleges, located in Claremont, California, and both draw extremely talented and motivated undergraduates – I should know, I was a professor at Harvey Mudd for 14 years before I became the Editor for Teaching Tools in Plant Biology, and it was a great job!

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NY Times: Truthiness in fonts - an experiment

NY Times: Truthiness in fonts - an experiment | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
While truth might not be dependent on typeface, a typeface can subtly influence us to believe something is true.

 

Here's part 2, a biography of the developer of the Baskerville font: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/09/hear-all-ye-people-hearken-o-earth-part-2/

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The beaty of Moss (muscinae) by Ernst Haeckel

The beaty of Moss (muscinae) by Ernst Haeckel | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Because they are so small, it is easy to overlook the beauty of mosses. The mosses represented in this drawing are identified here:

http://caliban.mpiz-koeln.mpg.de/haeckel/kunstformen/high/Tafel_072_schema_300.html

 

This beautiful drawing is by Ernst Haeckel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Haeckel). Haeckel also drew lichen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Haeckel_Lichenes.jpg), and orchids as well as animals. You can look at the book _Kunstformen der Natur_ online here (http://biodiversitylibrary.org/item/104650#) and here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunstformen_der_Natur).

 

Haeckel also is known for his observation that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" (the illustration of that idea (redrawn from Haeckel's original by Baer) is probably familar :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Haeckel_drawings.jpg)

 

Here's a nice review article putting moss (and liverworts) into an evolutionary perspective:  "Major transitions in the evolution of early land plants: a bryological perspective" (http://aob.oxfordjournals.org/content/109/5/851.abstract)

 

I also like this article, which examines moss's ability to tolerate drought and desiccation, and the lessons that can be extracted from them towards improving these traits in vascular plants. (http://mplant.oxfordjournals.org/content/2/3/478.full)

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US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; State of the Climate

US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; State of the Climate | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

As you know, July was an extremely hot month in the US - here is a breakdown on the data. It was the hottest July and the hottest month every recorded. Needless to say, the effects on summer crop yields will be similarly intense - prepare for rising food prices. Use these  opportunitird to talk to people about the importance of well-funded plant research!

 

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