Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education)
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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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"How to Grow a Planet" - clips on youtube

"How to Grow a Planet" - clips on youtube | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

The new BBC series "How to Grow a Planet" (the integral role of plants in the transformation of the planet over the past half-a-billion years) is currently available to viewers in the UK, but a few clips have been put on the BBC's youtube channel for the rest of the world to enjoy. It's good edutainment - highly accessible. (DVD available from Amazon late March, or just wait for more clips to appear on youtube!).

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Growing Better Rice for a Hungry World (Gates Foundation Infographic)

Growing Better Rice for a Hungry World (Gates Foundation Infographic) | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
The global demand for rice is booming. To keep up with this demand, rice production must increase by about 70 percent over the next two decades.
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2012 Annual Letter From Bill Gates | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

2012 Annual Letter From Bill Gates | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
The world faces a choice—to invest modestly so that all people can feed themselves, or to stop investing and tolerate 1 billion hungry people.
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Do plants smell? Question and answer with an interested grandmother

Do plants smell? Question and answer with an interested grandmother | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

A while back we got this question from a grandmother, and wanted to share her insightful question and our reply. Feel free to comment or pass along.

 

"I am Hailey (9) and Jessica (7) grandmother.. After watching the news about “bomb sniffing plants” (http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17210850), the Grandgirls would like to know “Do Plants Smell?” Do Plants Smell? Is there an olfactory-like response in the detection of explosives… like a “bomb sniffing “ dog.. or akin to a fish detecting an odor (‘sharks smell blood”) Now I’m beginning to wonder… is the question “Do Plants Smell” also the experiment??? If so, how would little kids demonstrate the experiment???

 

Here's our reply:

 

Hiya Grandmother, What a great question!

The answer of course, Yes, and No.

The sense of smell is fundamentally the ability of a cell to perceive a chemical compound. All cells can do this – from bacteria to human to plant. Cells perceive chemicals in most cases by specific receptor proteins. The types of receptor proteins varies from cell to cell, so bacteria have a different range of chemicals they can perceive than humans or plants do. One way to think of receptors and the chemicals they perceive is like a lock and key – the receptors are similarly structured proteins that are activated only by a very narrow range of chemicals – the key. (In the case of June Medford’s work, she modified a plant chemical receptor so it would detect a different compound than it normally would – kind of like when a locksmith changes the lock on your door so that it fits a new key).

 

When we smell a chemical (when the chemical binds to its receptor) the receptor sends an electrical impulse through a nerve, which sends a signal to our brain. Like a giant computer, our brain receives that information and evaluates it – some smells (e.g. blood, sour milk) elicit strong negative reactions, whereas others are ignored or trigger positive reactions (baking bread, grandma’s perfume). Our brains are constantly analyzing millions of bits of information at a time. Luckily we’re unaware of most of this activity.

 

Humans and other mammals have concentrated most of our senses into our head, near our brain (eyes, ears, nose, mouth). We’ve also concentrated our smell receptors into a more complicated structure, with thousands of them packed together into an olfactory system.

 

Plants (and many animals) on the other hand distribute their sensory systems more broadly. In fact, we are learning that nearly every cell in a plant is capable of perceiving information about light, chemical environment, temperature, wind etc. The receptors that perceive information about chemicals tend to be more abundant in the roots though, because root have the job of taking up nutrients from the soil. The root system constantly explores the soil environment by changing its growth direction, and when it finds a rich source of nutrients concentrates its growth in this region. Plants don’t have nerve cells, which is one of the reasons we think they have a distributed sensory system. Each cell participates in sensing its own environment, and responding appropriately. The cells do communicate with each other though, through a slower hormonal system.

 

Here's a link to an experiment that illustrates the principle of how plants “smell”. (http://my.aspb.org/resource/group/a9372bf4-9ae4-4d0b-ad0c-595c9dfc3543/12labs/09_defense.pdf

It’s written up as an experiment to look at chemicals in the soil, but particularly chemicals produced by other plants. Many plants secrete chemicals from their roots that inhibit the growth of other plants. Basically they’re trying to drive away any competition for resources. It’s a simple experiment but illustrates the principle that plants monitor their chemical environment through the same process that we do – or, if you like, that plants “smell”.

 

Hope this helps. It’s great that you are encouraging your granddaughters interest in plants and experiments! They are lucky!

Rama Ram's comment, February 2, 2012 12:17 AM
thanks ,mary!!!!
Mary Williams's comment, February 2, 2012 8:17 AM
Thanks Rama! In a month or two when I'm working on the Teaching Tool about how plants cooperate and compete with other plants I'm planning on writing a similar type of response to the question "Can plants see?". Short answer - Yes (sort of)!
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Mendel, 150 years on. Trends in Plant Science

What's more engaging than our friend Mendel? Subscription to TIPS required.

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Molecular Animation of Cell Death - Science Signaling

Cell death - cell death - cell death - BZqkaytoak

Seriously, great animation!

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Top 10 plant viruses in molecular plant pathology (Open Access)

Top 10 plant viruses in molecular plant pathology  (Open Access) | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Just what we've been waiting for - a top ten list of plant viruses (based on economic and scientific impact). Before you look, how many can you name? It's open access and educational - yippee!

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RNA interference (RNAi): by Nature Video

RNA interference (RNAi) is an important process, used by many different organisms to regulate the activity of genes. This animation explains how RNAi works and introduces the two main players: small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and microRNAs (miRNAs).

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Traditional Chinese Medice: Nature

Traditional Chinese Medice: Nature | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Nice collection from Nature looking at traditional Chinese medicine. How can we separate the real benefits from the placebos? 

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Here is a free resource from The Plant Cell and Teaching Tools in Plant Biology - Why Study Plants?

Here is a free resource from The Plant Cell and Teaching Tools in Plant Biology - Why Study Plants? | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

This site includes an article with an overview of why people study plants, and a set of PowerPoint slides to illustrate the reasons. These materials can be used for educational purposes. The content is suitable for a general audience.

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The Vacuole Song

It's just adorable, and it's a song about the vacuole.

Rama Ram's comment, January 23, 2012 10:17 PM
thanks ,Mary!!!
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Blastr: 12 bizarre real-life plants that look like sci-fi alien monsters

Blastr: 12 bizarre real-life plants that look like sci-fi alien monsters | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Hey, whatever it takes, right? If even one person gets excited about plants because of these photos we're pleased.

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Underexplored Niches in Research on Plant Pathogenic Bacteria

Underexplored Niches in Research on Plant Pathogenic Bacteria | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

If you're teaching about plants and pathogens, have a look at this paper from 2009. Particularly good choice if your students have to come up with a research project - lots of ideas here!

"Despite rapid advances on certain aspects of plant pathogenic bacteria, many economically important pathosystems are largely unexplored and biologically relevant life stages of even familiar systems remain poorly understood. We know remarkably little about end-stage disease, latent infections, survival away from the host, interactions among multiple microbes in a plant, and the effects of quantitative virulence factors."

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PhytoImages Digital Herbarium

PhytoImages Digital Herbarium | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

 Here is a great place to go if you want a photo of a specific plant (>36,000 pictures representing 476 families, 3450 genera, and 9400 species from all over the world), or a nice diagnostic key. Many of the photos were taken by the late Dr. Leanoard Co, for whom Rafflesia leonardi is named (http://imphscience.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/leonardo-l-co-botanist-1953-2010/)

 

"PhytoImages (a DiversityofLife website) provides fast databased images, cladograms, phylogenies, diagnostic keys and nomenclature for a vast number of plants and animals..".

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Norman Borlaug: The Genius Behind The Green Revolution - Forbes

Norman Borlaug: The Genius Behind The Green Revolution - Forbes | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
A new biography shows how the Nobel Prize winner prevented a billion from starving.
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Fascination of Plants Day

Fascination of Plants Day | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
Fascination of Plants Day May 18 2012...

Only six months to go until the international "Fascination of Plants Day" http://www.plantday12.eu/. Ideas for your involvement: You can share "Why Study Plants" with community groups or schools (http://www.plantcell.org/site/teachingtools/TTPB1.xhtml). You can make posters or leaflets with fascinating facts. Photographer Tom Donald has created a set of photos you can use for this project (http://www.flickr.com/photos/clearwood/sets/72157626284715720/). You can get bookmarks or flyers from ASPB, and ideas for activities (http://my.aspb.org/?page=Education). Get involved!

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PP315 Diagnostic Game

Nice looking game interface - diagnose the plant disease by microscopy and microbiology. Can you figure out what's making this plant sick? Good luck!

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Global food demand and the sustainable intensification of agriculture

Here is an open access paper that clearly shows us why we need plant biology education. Take home message: we need to double food production on existing croplands by 2050.

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Legumes give nitrogen-supplying bacteria special access pass | News from the John Innes Centre

Legumes give nitrogen-supplying bacteria special access pass | News from the John Innes Centre | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Nice overview of how plants help beneficial symbiotic bacteria get into the root.

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Ask for Evidence postcard · Sense about Science

This is a great way to motivate students to think about the way science is portrayed in the popular media. Hand them out in class and encourage students to "ask for evidence". 

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Water and agriculture - a CIMMYT slideshow

22 March 2012 is World Water Day. To mark the occasion we present a slideshow of CIMMYT images illustrating the importance of water in agriculture.
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