Our friend and colleague Eric Bishop von Wettberg (Florida International University) delivered a terrific TED talk entitled "Breeding climate resistant crops" that addresses the role of naturally occurring variation in crop wild relatives in crop improvement. It is definitely worth watching: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Breeding-climate-resistant-crop;TEDxFIU.
As a note, Eric and his lab are contributing an article to an upcoming special issue of American Journal of Botany entitled "Speaking of food: connecting basic and applied plant science" that I am co-editing with Toby Kellogg and Briana Gross.
One of the best ways to tackle the invasive species problem is to have a well-informed public. Recently, I had the distinct privilege to talk about this topic to Mr. Almond's fifth and sixth grade science classes at St. Joseph's Catholic Middle School in Imperial, MO. Mr. Almond had seen a recent article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch about my work with one of the economically and ecologically worst invasive plant species in North America, kudzu. The field sites in which I have worked for this study happen to be located just ten minutes from the school, and Mr. Almond thought it would be a great experience for his students if I came and spoke about the history of kudzu in the United States, its negative impacts, and how my research fits in with two topics they were studying: genetics and species extinction. While I was overall very pleased with the level of interest in these topics by both of the classes, I must say that the fifth graders did express much more enthusiasm and wonder and asked many more questions about my work and invasive species than the sixth graders did. One fifth grade student particularly touched me. At the end of class, she came up to me and showed me some sketches she had drawn of every invasive species she could think of, including kudzu, a Burmese python, and rabbits. To my delight, she offered her sketches to me, and I gladly accepted them as a parting gift. It is my hope that this energy and knowledge of invasive species demonstrated by her and her classmates stay with them as they get older, helping to inform their (and their parents') decision making about the plants they plant and the animals they keep.
With an ever-increasing swath of researchers generating and exploring genomic datasets, it is good to find a single resource (The Elements of Bioinformatics) that has consolidated and (very awesomely) organized tools for handling such datasets. Thanks to Dr. Mauricio Diazgranados, a former St. Louis University biology graduate student now at the Smithsonian, for calling it to our attention.
Miller Lab members