Friday, September 30, 2016

Food security scientists talk collections, interdisciplinary research

Fig.1. Faith Bartz moderates the environmental stressors and benefits panel on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016. Participants included Muni Muniappan, Virginia Tech; Stephanie Yarwood, University of Maryland; Edna Makule, Nelson Mandela Africa Institute for Science and Technology; Maxine Levin, USDA-NCRS; and John Dickie, Kew Gardens. (Credit: Tricia Fulks Kelley)

BELTSVILLE, Md. -- Some of the world’s top researchers in food security met at the USDA National Agricultural Library from Sept. 19 to 21 to discuss scientific collections’ role in the research area.

Scientific Collections International, or SciColl, a global consortium devoted to promoting the use and impact of object-based scientific collections across disciplines, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture hosted the three-day event. The symposium allowed researchers from across disciplines to talk about the ever-increasing demand on food and how collections-based research can help in the challenges of feeding billions.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The answers are hidden in history

Kristen Gremillion
“Somewhere in human history we seemed to have switched to a need to increase yields of crops,” said Kristen Gremillion, paleoethnobotanist and professor of anthropology at The Ohio State University.

Through fieldwork and the study of museum collections, Gremillion documents just that: the domestication of plants. The work - advanced by Bruce Smith, an anthropologist with the Smithsonian Institution - allows researchers to look at patterns of variation and plant origins and determine how human behavior affected what was grown. Results come from the study of archaeological materials and ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Climate change and phenology

Fig.1. David Inouye studies phenology and climate change’s effect on pollinators, such as bees, hummingbirds and flies. (Credit: David Inouye)

When David Inouye looks out the window of his Colorado home, he’s looking at the mountains. He’s traded in the D.C. suburbs for this view, which also happens to be his office.

The professor emeritus of the University of Maryland has worked at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory throughout his career, focusing on phenology and climate change’s effect on pollinators. Inouye specifically studies hummingbirds, bumblebees and flies. He has collaborated on other projects studying butterflies and solitary bees. As a graduate student in the 1970s, Inouye began to study how the timing and abundance of flowering of plants changes from day to day, year to year. With 30 plots to study during growing season and gathering data from 120 different species, the study has been ongoing.

Friday, September 2, 2016

In the News: Citizen science at the forefront

Fig.1. Citizen volunteers learn about Mississippi River fish species. (Credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

Investigating and understanding the world around us has always sparked the curiosity of scientists and non-scientists alike. Luckily, these days you don’t need to have a degree in science to contribute to research in nearly every discipline. Many programs have been developed to capture the wonder and data at the fingertips of citizens - and there’s no sign of this trend slowing down.