BioBlitz at Sandy Hook -- posted October 27, 2011
Several faculty from the school participated in BioBlitz at Sandy Hook, sponsored by the American Littoral Society, on September 16–17. Described as “part competition, part educational event, and part scientific endeavor,” BioBlitz sought to provide a “snapshot of the biodiversity that can be found in Sandy Hook.” Faculty members included Lena Struwe (Plant Biology and Pathology), Rick Lathrop (Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources), and Olaf Jensen (Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences). To Struwe, who led a plant team with help from Rutgers' Naturalist Club members Nancy Slowik (botanist) and Laura Shappell (graduate student, Ecology and Evolution), the BioBlitz involved an intense effort to find as many plant species as possible, in this harsh environment. Recent flooding from hurricane Irene had destroyed large parts of the vegetation, but the team of over 30 plant enthusiasts managed to find at least 200 plant species in 24 hours.
A team lead by Chris Zambell (graduate students, Ecology and Evolution) discovered over 20 different species of fungi. The flora at Sandy Hook is unique in its combination of a harsh coastal environment with large human disturbance. The most common woody plant found was poison ivy, but there were also some more rare species. As a result of the recent flooding from New Jersey rivers, the plant team found the devil's head-like horned fruits from water caltrop, an invasive aquatic plant from lakes in the New Jersey Highlands, washed out to sea and stranded on Sandy Hook. At a parking lot, the recently arrived invasive species Chinese bush-clover was collected, and the salt marshes provided many salt-tolerant and fleshy-stemmed species only known from this environment. Students from Seton Hall University, Georgian Court, and Rutgers got a chance to taste, smell, and identify plants they had never seen before. Jensen, a fish biologist, led a group of 20 graduate and undergraduate students, technicians, and volunteers on a hunt for fish at BioBlitz. Their goal was to identify and record as many fish species as possible as part of a snapshot of marine biodiversity at the National Seashore. Working in moonlight and with headlamps, the fish team used seine nets to sweep the sandy bottom of Horseshoe Cove and Plum Island. More than a dozen species were cataloged, ranging from large-bodied predators like summer flounder (fluke) to tiny silversides.
Jim Simon Helps Garner $18.5 Million USAID Grant - posted October 27, 2011
Jim Simon (director of the New Use Agricultural and Natural Plants Program) led a Rutgers team that helped obtain a grant of $18.5 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development to fund a five-year project called the Excellence in Higher Education for Liberian Development. Under the project, Rutgers will receive $4 million of the grant, which will send 45 Rutgers faculty and staff to teach and work at the University of Liberia in Monrovia, the nation’s capital, and at rural Cuttington College. The university is part of a consortium of schools, including North Carolina State University and the University of Michigan, involved in the project aimed at stimulating the reconstruction of universities and infrastructure throughout Liberia following more than a decade of civil war. Read more.
Discovery of New “Genuflecting” Plant - posted October 27, 2011
Lena Struwe (Plant Biology and Pathology; Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources) was part of an international team of scientists to discover and identify a new “genuflecting” plant, appropriately named Spigelia genuflexa, that displays a particular and rare characteristic that gives it its name. After fruits are formed, the fruiting branches “bend down,” depositing the capsules with seeds on the ground and sometimes burying them in the soft cover of moss, a phenomenon called geocarpy. This ensures that the seeds end up as close to the mother plant as possible, facilitating its propagation the following season. A famous example of geocarpy—a rare adaptation to growing in harsh or ephemeral environments, is the well-known peanut from the legume family that buries its fruits in the ground. Struwe, a specialist in the strychnine family, offered to collaborate with Alex Popovkin, who discovered the tiny plant in Bahia, Brazil, to study and publish the new species. Further collaboration with another expert in the strychnine family, Katherine Mathews from Western Carolina University, and visiting scientist Mari Carmen Molina from Spain, who extracted DNA from the plant in Struwe’s laboratory, led to the confirmation of the species as Spigelia, to which pinkroot, an old North American herbal remedy against intestinal parasites also belongs. Struwe is no stranger to unusual species descriptions. She’s previously described a species in the gentian family from the Andes named after Harry Potter and another named after the Inca tribes. Read more.
Join us for 100 years of Plant Pathology -- August 2011
Join us on Friday, October 14, 2011 for a gala event - The Celebration of the 100th anniversary of Plant Pathology at Rutgers University - at the Heldrich Hotel, 10 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ. The Gala Celebration of the 100th Anniversary kicks off on Friday morning with a symposium entitled, "The Changing Landscape of Plant Pathology" and continues, after a complimentary buffet lunch, with a second symposium - "Plant Pathology in the 21st Century: Advances in Plant and Human Health." Please see more here.
Rong Di hosted a delegation from Guangxi Academy of Sciences. -- August 2011
Rong Di hosted a delegation from Guangxi Academy of Sciences (GAS) on August 12. The delegation was led by Ribo Huang, president of GAS, who was accompanied by six GAS directors and researchers. This visit was sponsored by the Rutgers-NSF IGERT Project: Renewable and Sustainable Fuels Solutions for the 21st Century, with Eric Lam as PI and Linda Anthony as the coordinator. GAS is one of the IGERT international partners. Huang presented a seminar titled “The development and policy of renewable energy in China.” The GAS delegation met with Di, Mark Robson (Entomology; dean, agricultural and urban programs), Douglas Eveleigh (Biochemistry and Microbiology), Ilya Raskin, Monica Emery (coordinator of International Programs), and Nikolai Borisjuk (guest, Plant Biology and Pathology) for further discussion on biofuel research collaboration and student exchange programs. The GAS delegation was given a tour of the Waksman Museum by Eveleigh and a tour of the research labs by Di.
Dr. Bennet gave invited presentations. -- May 2011
- Keynote address on “Chromosomal composition and computational competence” at the Midsouth Computation Biology and Bioinformatics Society, College Station, TX, in April.
- Keynote address on “History of Dutch microbiology” and a talk on “Is microbiology gendered?” at the Centennial Meeting of the Dutch microbiology Society (NVvM), Arnhem, The Netherlands, in April.
- “Lessons learned from stating on office for women in science,” to the Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands, in April.
Stephen Miller receives travel grant. -- May 2011
Stephen Miller (graduate student, Plant Biology) received a $1,000 travel award to attend the 2011 FESIN workshop in Fairbanks, AK. FESIN (Fungal Environmental Sampling and Informatics Network) is a Research Coordination Network in fungal ecology sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The workshop is held in conjunction with the Mycological Society of America with the goal of incorporating various ways to use different perspectives of fungi including systematics, evolution, ecology, and applied mycology in the classroom. In addition, Miller received a $500 travel award from the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology and the Plant Biology Graduate Program to attend the 2011 MSA meeting in Fairbanks, AK, and to present a talk titled “Metagenomic analysis reveals hidden fungal diversity in dogwood (Cornus) foliage” at the conference. Financial support was provided by the C. Reed Funk Student Award Fund.
School Delegation Visits China -- May 2011
From May 1–13, Bob Goodman (executive dean), together with Rong Di and Barbara Zilinskas, and Weilin Huang (Environmental Sciences) visited several universities and institutes in China. These included the Beijing University of Agriculture, China Agricultural University, Beijing Institutes of Life Science/Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)-Institute of Zoology, Institute of Botany, Institute of Microbiology and Beijing Institute of Genomics, Jilin University, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Hong Kong University, and South China University of Technology. The mission of the trip was to strengthen the existing and to develop new 2+2 programs with these Chinese institutions.
Deparmental Faculty Promotions -- May 2011
Andy Wyenandt Associate Extension Specialist, with tenure: his research program has focused on assisting stakeholders in New Jersey and the mid-Atlantic Region better understand and manage fungicide resistance development in vegetable crop production. Understanding how and why fungicide resistance develops is critically important for enhancing our ability to control the most destructive vegetable diseases in the state and region.
Stacy Bonos, Associate Professor, with tenure: her research focus has been on breeding turfgrasses for improvements in stress and pest tolerance and environmental sustainability. Also, Bonos has been developing switchgrass and other perennial grasses as important biofuel and reclamation species for the northeast U.S. The goal of her research has been to integrate both modern and traditional breeding approaches to plant improvement and focus on problems relevant to current and future needs.
Lena Struwe gives invited presentations -- February 2011
- Present “Up and down in the Amazon, Andes, and lost Worlds of South America – why are plants where they are, how did they get there, and why?” at the Ecology and Evolution Graduate Student Association Spring Seminar.
- Present "Medicinal plants: From Native American and colonial NJ traditions to global malaria research" to the Garden Club of Somerset Hills, NJ, on February 9.
- The Flora of New Jersey Project meeting in the Chrysler Herbarium on February 12. The Flora project just launched its new website. (http://www.njflora.org/)
- Represent Rutgers University at the annual meeting for the Organization for Tropical Studies at Palo Verde Research Station, Costa Rica, from March 10–12.
Activities of the Botanical Society of America Chapter -- February 2011
The Rutgers University chapter of the Botanical Society of America (BSA) was started during fall 2010 by School of Environmental and Biological Sciences undergraduate Stacy Brody (Agricultural Science/Plant Science). Undergraduate and graduate students from several programs and departments at the school are involved. Lena Struwe (Plant Biology and Pathology; Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources) serves as BSA’s faculty advisor. During the fall the main BSA club event was “Spirit of Tequila,” featuring guest speakers from Siembra Azul Tequila and the University of Guadalajara, Mexico, to learn about tequila production, encompassing all aspects from the agricultural to the anthropological. To unwind around finals, the club held a movie night, featuring “Little Shop of Horrors.” They also displayed a table at the October and December Happy Hour at the Cook Campus Center, distributing materials on Rutgers’ plant breeding programs and educating students and faculty about some common fruits and vegetables. In February, the club screened the movie “Botany of Desire” and later hosted guest speaker and Cook alumnus Christopher Martine. On March 23, the club hosted Joan Bennett (Plant Biology and Pathology) in honor of women’s history month. The BSA chapter plans to make a “Women in Botany” lecture an annual event. Its next big adventure is a trip to the New York Botanical Garden on April 23. For more information, contact Stacy Brody.
Executive Dean Robert M. Goodman offered his sincere thanks to Harry Janes (Plant Biology and Pathology) for his outstanding stewardship of the grants office following the departure of the previous director. In addition to his leadership of the office, on an interim basis, Janes has undertaken a series of important administrative duties at the school, serving as chair of the Plant Biology strategic planning committee and the school planning committee. “I am deeply grateful for Harry’s diligence and his outstanding stewardship of the office since September 2010 and his leadership at the school,” said Goodman. Janes, who has been at Rutgers for over 30 years, focuses his research on the impact of environmental conditions on plant growth and development. He is a specialist in the management of plant production systems in controlled environments and is an advisor to commercial greenhouse operations. Janes was the founding director of the Rutgers EcoComplex, the university’s first environmental experiment station facility. For 10 years, he’s served as the editor-in-chief for Habitation, an international journal for human support research.
Joseph Heckman gives invited presentations-- January 2011.
- “Raw milk: Real, organic, and local” at the NOFA-NY Winter Conference, in Saratoga Springs, New York, on January 22.
- “Raw milk: Restoring dairy farming in the Garden State” at the NOFA-NJ Winter Conference, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, on January 29.
- “Backyard poultry” at the NOFA-NJ Winter Conference, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, on January 30.
- “Teaching children about worm composting, at the NOFA-NJ Winter Conference, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, on January 30.
- “Soil Fertility using leaves and other amendments” at the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture Winter Conference, Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA, on February 3.
- “Perspectives on history, philosophy, and sociology of organic farming” at the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture Winter Conference, Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA, on February 4.
- “Pumpkin production practices that reduce cost” at the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture Winter Conference, Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA, on February 4.
Undergraduate students attended the Sports Turf Managers Association -- January 2011.
Four undergraduate student members from the Rutgers Turf Club, Jeff Antoniewicz, Kevin Rundstrom, Eric O’Toole, and Justin Sadowski, attended the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) Conference and Exhibition in Austin, TX, from January 11-15. The students competed in the STMA Student Challenge, a sports turf-specific competition that tests the students' knowledge of cool- and warm-season turfgrass, weed, disease, and insect identification, as well as pesticide calibration/mathematics, basic soils, and irrigation theory. For the third year, Brad Park (sports turf research and education coordinator, Center for Turfgrass Science) helped the students prepare for the competition and secured funding from Sports Field Managers Association of New Jersey to assist the students with travel to and lodging at the conference.
A team of undergraduate students from the Rutgers Turf Club composed of Greg Bohus, Eric O’Toole, Jeff Antoniewicz, and Kevin Rundstrom competed in the 2011 Turf Bowl Competition at the International Golf Course Superintendents Association of America Conference and Trade Show in Orlando, FL, on February 10. The Rutgers team placed 12th out of 87 university teams from throughout the United States and Canada. Rich Hurley (Plant Biology and Pathology), Sabrina Tirpak (principal technician, Plant Diagnostic Laboratory; Plant Biology and Pathology) and Bruce Clarke (Plant Biology and Pathology; director, Center for Turfgrass Science) assisted the Rutgers team in preparing for this year’s competition.
On January 13 and 14, The Rutgers Turfgrass Program celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Center for Turfgrass Science as well as its Annual Turfgrass Symposium. The two-day celebration was attended by more than 90 faculty, students, and turf industry professionals from throughout the country and featured research presentations from former graduates of the Rutgers Turfgrass Program. Executive Dean Robert M. Goodman and Director of Rutgers Cooperative Extension Larry Katz welcomed attendees at the symposium and recognized the many accomplishments of the turf faculty, including the pioneering efforts of C. Reed Funk, Ralph Engel, and Henry Indyk who laid the foundation for the present-day turfgrass center.
Distinguished speakers at the anniversary gala included Joseph Bischoff (USDA–APHIS), Michelle DaCosta (University of Massachusetts), Yuanhong Han (Noble Foundation), Gerald Henry (Texas Tech University), Josh Honig (Rutgers University), Patrick McCullough (University of Georgia), Lane Tredway (North Carolina State University), Eric Watkins (University of Minnesota), and Matt Koch (Plant Biology and Pathology). Stacy Bonos (Plant Biology and Pathology), Karen Plumley (Mitchell Products, Inc), and John Inguagiato (University of Connecticut) served as session moderators.
The annual Turfgrass Symposium was established in 1991 to provide Rutgers faculty, students, and staff with an annual forum for the exchange of ideas on a wide range of topics in turfgrass science. Over the years, this format was expanded to include presentations by colleagues at other institutions. This year’s symposium marked a significant milestone for the Rutgers Turfgrass Program as it continues to be recognized as one of the premier research, teaching, and outreach programs in the world.
Ray-yu Yang of the World Vegetable Center Visits the School - December 2010
Ray-yu Yang, who leads the Nutrition Research Group at the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center), in Taiwan, visited the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences last November 13-17. The purpose of her visit was to meet faculty and students and to hold discussions regarding the Agriculture, Education and Research Opportunities in Asia (AERO-Asia) initiative. Her visit, which followed the visit of AVRDC Director General Dyno Keatinge last October, was sponsored jointly by the school’s Office of International Programs, which is the official funder of the AERO-Asia initiative, AVRDC, and the USDA NIFA-supported International Science and Education program. Michael Lawton and Albert Ayeni (Plant Biology and Pathology), who are co-directors of the AERO-Asia initiative, hosted Yang during her visit. The highlights of Yang’s visit included:
- November 15, Yank presented a seminar on “Indigenous Vegetables in Tropical Africa and Asia for Nutrition Security, Food Diversity and Value Addition.” Approximately 40 members of the Rutgers’ community were in attendance, including faculty, students, and staff.
- November 16, Yang gave a lecture on “Nutritional properties of Asian vegetables” in the International Agriculture: New Crops and New Uses class. Her lecture was comprehensive and helped to enrich the students’ understanding of the ramifications of Asian vegetables in food, nutrition, and health around the world. On behalf of AVRDC, Yang donated a copy of the center’s 319-page book, “Discovering Indigenous Treasures: Promising Indigenous Vegetables from Around the World,” to each of the six students in the class.
- Yang conducted several meetings with faculty on November 15-16 to explore opportunities for research, education, and outreach collaborations between AVRDC and various departments in the School. These included meetings with Food Science, including Mukund Karwe (chair), and faculty members Tung-Ching Lee and Chi-Tang Ho; Plant Biology and Pathology with James Simon (director, New Use Agriculture and Natural Plant Products Program-NUANPP), the NUANPP research team, and faculty member Rong Di; Nutritional Sciences with Dan Hoffman (chair), Sue Shapses (director, New Jersey Obesity Group), Debra Palmer (director, New Jersey Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program), Peter Gillies (founding director, Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health), Peggy Policastro (nutrition specialist and director, Healthy Dining Team); Margaret Brennan-Tonetta (director of economic growth and development, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station; associate vice president for economic development, Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate and Professional Education; and executive director, Food Innovation Center); and the International Programs Office with Lily Young (dean, International Programs) and Monica Emery (program coordinator).
Gibex in Bhutan, Asia - posted on December 22, 2010.
At the invitation of the leaders of the Agriculture, Education and Research Opportunities in Asia (AERO-Asia) initiative, Michael Lawton and Albert Ayeni (Plant Biology and Pathology), Dyno Keatinge, the director general of the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center), Taiwan, visited Rutgers from October 26–27. This was the first in a series of visits to Rutgers’ planned by AVRDC. The AERO-Asia initiative is sponsored by the Oiffice of International Programs at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences to advance curriculum internationalization and student internship opportunities abroad. Highlights of Keatinge’s visit included a meeting with Executive Dean Robert M. Goodman, during which opportunities for student internships at AVRDC and joint research programs between AVRDC and the school were discussed. In addition, Keatinge met with members of Rutgers’ Ethnic Crops Research Group (ECRG) to explore collaborative opportunities in germplasm exchange and ethnic crops research in priority areas of ethnic vegetable development. Keatinge expressed delight at the level of interest displayed by ECRG in developing ethnic vegetables for the U.S. market and the amount of research information the group has generated. He affirmed his interest in collaborating with Rutgers through ECRG and other units at Rutgers. ECRG is led by Ramu Govindasamy (Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics) and includes Albert Ayeni (Plant Biology and Pathology); Wesley Kline (Rutgers Cooperative Extension - RCE of Cumberland County); Stephen Komar (RCE of Sussex County); Peter Nitzsche (RCE of Morris County); Tom Orton (Rutgers Agricultural Research and Extension Center); Venkat Puduri (Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics); Brian Schilling (Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics); Bill Sciarappa (RCE of Monmouth County); Jim Simon (Plant Biology and Pathology); and Rick VanVranken (RCE of Atlantic County). Keatinge presented a seminar titled “AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center: Fighting the Battle against Poverty and Malnutrition by Diversifying Cropping Systems with Fruit and Vegetables.” The seminar, which was attended by 43 students, faculty, and staff from across the university, provided useful information on state-of-the-art research and development of indigenous tropical vegetable crops at AVRDC. The seminar also highlighted the nutritional and health values of important vegetable crops currently being studied at the center.
Dyno Keatinge Visits Rutgers - posted on December 22, 2010.
Graduate Students win awards at the Crop Science Society of America Annual meeting -- posted December 2, 2010
Five students in the Graduate Program in Plant Biology took home awards from the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Crop Science Society of America held in Long Beach, CA, from October 31-November 3. Lisa Beirn won first place for her talk titled “Single Nucleotide polymorphisms in Colletotrichum cereale: A method for detecting unique isolates of the turfgrass anthracnose fungus.” Matthew Koch won first place for his talk titled “Correlation of three salinity tolerance screening methods.” Emily Merewitz won second place for her oral presentation titled “Drought responsive proteins in ipt transgenic creeping bentgrass.” Priti Saxena received third place for her talk titled “Effect of photoperiod and temperature on tillering rate and rhizome formation in tall fescue.” Yan Zhao took first place for her poster “Identification of proteins associated with drought tolerance and post-drought recovery in Kentucky bluegrass.”
Biotechnology Center for Agriculture and the Environment comes to an end - posted September 9, 2010
Upon administrative and programmatic reviews in the School, the decision has been made to bring the Biotechnology Center for Agriculture and the Environment to an end as an administrative and programmatic unit, effective July 1. Members of the Center will henceforth be supported administratively and be aligned programmatically with their tenure home departments. With strong participation by Center faculty in four of the five tenure home departments (Environmental Sciences, Biochemistry & Microbiology, Animal Sciences, and Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources), significant growth was seen in the last five years with the recruitment of new cutting edge research faculty. As part of this assessment process, a strategic review of the Plant Biology and Pathology department has been initiated and the plant biologists who came to Rutgers as members the Center will play a role in those discussions. Furthermore, involvement of Biotech faculty members to support and help build new initiatives at the School is anticipated in the near future.
The Rutgers “Ag Biotech” Center was formed in the late 1980s as one of a group of “centers of excellence” funded by the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology. It successfully played an important role over the past 20 years in bringing a new “research culture” to Rutgers and the Cook campus in particular. In recent years, the research culture on the Cook campus has strengthened notably, such that today the Center does not stand out from its academic surroundings as much as it once did. This situation two years ago called for some soul-searching about the contemporary need and role for the Center going forward. Overall, Center faculty members have been highly productive, providing leadership for many research collaborations, service functions, and instructional activities on campus. They also initiated and expanded a number of rewarding national and international collaborations that have helped to raise the status of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and Rutgers at home and abroad. Just as importantly, key members of the Biotech Center took on leadership positions at the School (e.g. Deans of Academic Programs and of International Programs, Chairs of the departments of Environmental Sciences, Animal Sciences, Biochemistry and Microbiology) further underscoring the leadership role of the Center and its faculty. However, when examined in the context of the current needs of the School, the investment in support staff in the Center as an administrative unit was out of step with prevailing levels of expenditure in other units. Continual budget cuts in recent years thus necessitated a review of the support staff investment. It became clear that changes had to be made in light of emerging priorities and the equitable distribution of resources amongst the units in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
An important legacy of the Center is a renewed investment in the research infrastructure of the campus, focused on metabolomics, genomics, and imaging. Computational infrastructure, bioinformatics, biorobotics, and a wide range of spectrometric and spectroscopic instrumentation are also included in this renewed investment to bring state of the art tools to bear on our research capacity. In progress is implementation of a plan to staff and operate these resources as a “virtual” instrumentation hub to promote research and education in the larger School and University communities. So, while change is always difficult, we are confident that this new direction will enhance funding of new research directions and stimulate a new mix of activities among and beyond the School’s faculty. We gratefully acknowledge the leadership and energy of Biotech Center faculty members who have contributed so much to Rutgers science over the years, and hope that they will excel in the face of new challenges as we all grapple with difficult budget circumstances going forward.
Helping to Advance Medicinal Research in East Africa - posted September 9, 2010
Brittany Graf (graduate student, Plant Biology and Pathology) participated in Rutgers’ Global Institute for BioExploration (GIBEX) program in Kenya, helping to teach participants from Kenya and Uganda to rapidly extract medicinal plants at their field collection site and then screen them for antibacterial, antifungal, antihelminthic, antiprotozoan, antioxidant, and protease inhibition activity. The GIBEX program was developed by Ilya Raskin (Plant Biology and Pathology) to facilitate the research and development of health-promoting natural products through international collaborations while linking those efforts to sustainable development and conservation worldwide. During Graf’s participation in East Africa this spring, 20 chemists, pharmacologists, botanists, and traditional healers from Kenya and Uganda participated in a five-day training program to learn the “Screens-to-Nature” (STN) technique, a scientific approach designed to detect natural products with potential pharmacological activity through rapid, inexpensive, field-deployable assays. Read more.
Turfgrass Producers International Tour of Turfgrass Science Program - posted September 9, 2010
On July 26, scores of Turfgrass producers participated in the Turfgrass Producers International (TPI) Tour of the Plant Science Research and Extension Farm located in Adelphia, NJ. Hosted by the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and the Center for Turfgrass Science, the tour was part of TPI's summer convention and field days that were held in New York and New Jersey from July 25–29. The July 26 tour of the Adelphi farm included an earlier stop at Reids Sod Farm in Freehold, NJ. The purpose of the farm tour was to highlight the advances made by Rutgers researchers in turfgrass breeding, management and pest control for economically and environmentally sustainable cultivated sod production. TPI is a not-for-profit, worldwide trade association that represents the turfgrass sod industry. Rutgers relationship with TPI began with the late Henry Indyke, former extension specialist in turfgrass management, who was instrumental in stating TPI, which later established a scholarship in his name. Stephen Hart, (associate extension specialist, Plant Biology and Pathology) serves as the faculty liaison between the Center for Turfgrass Science and the Cultivated Sod Association of New Jersey, many of whose members are part of TPI.
International Symposium on Biofuels and Bioenergy - posted September 9, 2010
The Rutgers-NSF IGERT Project on Sustainable Fuels Solutions for the 21st Century hosted its first International Summer Symposium on Biofuels and Bioenergy from June 2-4 on the Cook Campus. The two-and-a-half day program featured twenty-five presentations and eighteen posters that spanned the entire biofuels/bioenergy pipeline--from biomass feedstock development to processing and conversion technologies, deployment and logistics, land use and sustainability, and economics and policy. Contributors included 25 invited speakers, of whom fifteen were from the IGERT’s partners in China, Brazil, and South Africa; seven from Rutgers core faculty of the Fuels IGERT; and three from other institutions in the United States. The meeting drew more than 100 attendees, including students, postdocs, and faculty from Rutgers and other local institutions as well as interested parties from NJ and PA industries and governmental agencies. In his opening remarks, Fuels IGERT Director Eric Lam (Plant Biology and Pathology) acknowledged generous institutional support for the meeting from the offices of the Executive Dean Robert M. Goodman and Rutgers Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Philip Furmanski, who also welcomed all guests and officially opened the symposium. On the final day of the symposium, Lam moderated an extended “town hall-style meeting” that provided a forum for all attendees to discuss biofuels/bioenergy issues in a multi-disciplinary and multi-national context. Lam also introduced the inaugural cohort of IGERT Graduate Training Fellows: Cody Cobb (Plant Biology and Pathology); Joomi Kim (Oceanography); Nicholas Bennette, Jason Hackenberg, and Michael Haibach (Chemistry and Chemical Biology); Gabriel Lade and Vincent Lam (Economics); Curtis Burkhalter (Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources). Lam also recognized the efforts of the symposium organizing committee, chaired by A.J. Both (Environmental Sciences), and which included Rong Di and Michael Lawton (Plant Biology and Pathology), and Carl Pray (Agricultural Economics and Marketing). After the formal closing of the symposium, the international participants and core IGERT faculty held additional meetings to create a roadmap of timelines, milestones, and outcomes for field trips, research exchanges, and curriculum development activities involving IGERT Training Fellows and other students and faculty at Rutgers and its international partner institutions in the coming months and years.
Undergraduate Helps Publicize the Use of Duckweed for Biofuels - posted September 9, 2010
Alice Kong, a rising sophomore majoring in accounting and business at the Calloway Business School at Wake Forest University with a minor in English, has been awarded an entrepreneurial scholarship through Wake Forest University for a summer project in the laboratory of Eric Lam (Plant Biology and Pathology). Kong is helping to publicize the use of duckweed as a renewable energy source through the creation of a website and YouTube video. A Duckweed Cooperative established by Lam has acquired and is maintaining living specimens of over 530 duckweed strains from across the globe. They are being catalogued and will be made available to researchers worldwide.
Writer Susan Dworkin Bridges the Gap Between Scientists and the Public - posted June 2, 2010
With public support for science more crucial than ever, how does a scientist effectively communicate to laypeople the importance and impact of his or her work? Author Susan Dworkin told an audience of nearly 100 that the key is “telling a good story.” This is exactly what Dworkin does in her latest book, Viking in the Wheat Field, a nonfiction volume on the work of Bent Skovmand and his struggle to save the world’s wheat harvest from the devastating wheat stem rust known as UG99. Dworkin visited the George H. Cook Campus on April 27 at the invitation of the Center for Turfgrass Science and the Office of the Executive Dean. Her talk was arranged by the center and the Office of Community Engagement. According to Dworkin, the key to communicating complex science is to tell the story of the scientist – the human interest – and draw the reader/listener into learning about the science. Her lecture focused, with a fair dose of humor, on her conversations with her publisher about her concept for a book on the wheat rust crisis and her efforts to convince him that such a subject was an important story to tell and could be a commercial success. Viking in the Wheat Field demonstrates the power of a good story, enhanced by Dworkin’s early background as a staffer at the USDA. The lecture and book-signing event also featured a panel discussion that included Dworkin; Executive Dean Robert M. Goodman; Joachim Messing, director of the Waksman Institute of Microbiology; and Stacy Bonos (Plant Biology and Pathology).
Biotechnology Graduates Congratulated - posted June 2, 2010
Congratulations to Maria Montano and Mustafa Ergin (undergraduate students, Biotechnology, working in the Nilgun Tumer lab) who graduated this month. Montano did her Cook Honors thesis on the "Analysis of ricin mutants" with Xiao-Ping Li and Nilgun Tumer (Plant Biology and Pathology; Biotech Center). Shravan Dave (undergraduate student, Biotechnology) graduated with honors and worked in the lab of Lily Young (Environmental Sciences), completing a Cook Honors thesis titled "Impact of low and high arsenic concentrations on bacterial diversity."
Biotech Center Applauds Aresty Student Researchers - posted June 2, 2010
The 6th annual Aresty Student Research Symposium took place April 23 in the Rutgers Student Center. More than 340 students presented posters and papers during the day-long event. Biotech Center faculty worked with 15 students on their projects. Presenters and faculty advisors were: Syed Abbas and Nicholas Greene (Albert Ayeni, Plant Biology and Pathology), Alyssa Cocchiara (Wendie Cohick, Animal Sciences), Alexander Conicella (Rong Di, Plant Biology & Pathology), Shravan Dave (Lily Young, Environmental Sciences), Brittany Durgin (Eric Lam, Plant Biology and Pathology), Nathaniel Girer (Max Häggblom, Biochemistry and Microbiology), Andrew Glaser (Albert Ayeni), Allan Gomes (Elisabetta Bini, Biochemistry and Microbiology), Allison Hicks (Siobain Duffy, Environmental Sciences), Jennifer Huang (Slavko Komarnytsky, Plant Biology and Pathology), Nathalie Sanchez (Carol Bagnell, Animal Sciences), Mariya Skvortsova (Eric Lam, Plant Biology and Pathology), Sam Taddeo (Eric Lam), and Kristene Welch (Carol Bagnell). Elise Rodgers-Viera (former student of Gerben Zylstra (Biochemistry and Microbiology), served as a judge. Kudos to all!
Team Presents Papers at the Ribosomes 2010 Conference - posted June 2, 2010
Nilgun Tumer (Plant Biology and Pathology; Biotech Center), Xiao-Ping Li, and Jiachi Chiou attended the Ribosomes 2010 conference from May 3–7 in Orvieto, Italy. Tumer presented work on genome-wide analysis of ricin cytotoxicity. Xiao-Ping Li (Biotech Center) and Jia-Chi Chiou (graduate assistant, Biotech Center) presented results from research on the interaction of ricin A chain with ribosomes. While in Europe, Tumer visited Dirk Inze’s group in the Plant Systems Biology Department at Ghent University in Ghent, Belgium, and the Chemical Genetics and Compound Screening Facility at Ghent University on May 19. Tumer then traveled to Germany to visit Paul Schulze-Lefert and Erich Kombrink at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding in Cologne on May 20.
Eric Lam (Plant Biology and Pathology; Biotech Center) attended the 2010 Annual Project Meeting of National Science Foundation’s IGERT Program in Washington DC, from May 23–25, in his capacity as Principal Investigator of Rutgers’ IGERT Project on Renewable and Sustainable Fuels Solutions. Also representing the Fuels IGERT were Program Coordinator Linda Anthony (Plant Biology and Pathology; Biotech Center) and Fuels IGERT trainee Jason Hackenberg (Chemistry and Chemical Biology). Together with colleagues from each of the more than 100 IGERT projects currently active nationwide, Lam, Anthony, and Hackenberg attended presentations, workshops, and networking sessions on topics that ranged from “Teaching Science in a Digital World” to “Science Ethics Case Studies” to “Post-IGERT Trainee Careers and Paths.”
Sustainable Fuels IGERT Awards Graduate Training Fellowships - posted April 22, 2010
The Rutgers-NSF IGERT Project on Renewable and Sustainable Fuels has awarded Graduate Training Fellowships to Cody Cobb (Plant Biology and Pathology), Joomi Kim (Oceanography), Michael Haibach (Chemistry and Chemical Biology), and Gabriel Lade and Vincent Lam (Economics). Together, with previously appointed trainees Jason Hackenberg and Nicholas Bennette (Chemistry and Chemical Biology), the new Training Fellows will participate in a unique variety of activities that integrate research, education, and professional training across diverse science, engineering, and social science disciplines. The Admissions Committee was chaired by Lena Struwe (Plant Biology and Pathology; Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources). The PI of the Sustainable Fuels IGERT is Eric Lam (Plant Biology and Pathology; Biotech Center).
International Award Recognizes Environmental Leadership - posted April 22, 2010
On April 8, the President of Ecuador Rafael Correa received the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign 2009 Madhuri and Jagdish N. Sheth International Alumni Award for his commitment to public service and recognition of his active leadership in the implementation of economic development and political reforms in Ecuador. The President’s candidacy was endorsed by Global Institute for BioExploration (GIBEX), Rutgers University. Representing GIBEX, Rutgers University was Ilya Raskin (Plant Biology and Pathology; Biotech Center). President Correa has been highly instrumental in advancing bioexploration in Central America. In 2009, the Ministry of Environment of Ecuador approved the use of Screens-to-Nature technology developed at Rutgers to study plants from the Ecuadorian cloud forest in the Maquipucuna Reserve. GIBEX hopes that joint scientific programs with Ecuador will continue to expand, benefiting the Ecuadorian people, particularly in the area of human health.
The 2010 GIBEX-East Africa Symposium and Training Workshop - posted on April 15, 2010
Ilya Raskin (Biotech Center) led delegates from the Global Institute for Bioexploration-USA (GIBEX-USA) to the 2010 GIBEX-East Africa Symposium on “Botanicals: From research to commercialization” and a training workshop on Botanical Biodiversity Documentation/Screens-to-Nature technology (BBD/STN). The two events took place in Nairobi, Kenya, from March 15–20, and were organized by the GIBEX principal partner at the University of Nairobi (UoN), Professor Grace Thoithi (Dean of Pharmacy, UoN) and Associate Director for GIBEX-Africa, Albert Ayeni (Plant Biology and Pathology).
The symposium attracted 70 participants from East African institutions and two US Universities (Rutgers and North Carolina State University [NCSU]). The keynote speaker at the symposium, J.W. Mwangi (professor of Pharmacognosy, UoN), discussed “East African endowments for natural product –based health products: Untapped economic opportunities.” Baldwyn Torto (senior scientist, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology [ICIPE]) gave an overview of natural products research at ICIPE. Ilya Raskin, Mary Ann Lila (NCSU), Robert Gruetzmacher (Rutgers’ Office of Technology Commercialization), and Tolo Fridlender (visiting scientist, Rutgers University), respectively, discussed “Botanicals: from research to commercialization;” “Superfruits, superberries and supersuccess;” “How to protect your IP;” and “How to start your company.” Panel discussions gave opportunities for highly interactive Q&A sessions, which added significant value to the quality of the symposium.
The BBD/STN training workshop took place at the symposium venue from March 16–20, with trainees from UoN, Kenya and Makerere University, Uganda. Ayeni coordinated the training workshop while Brittany Graf (graduate assistant, Plant Biology & Pathology) and Josh Kellogg (NCSU) conducted the training program. The BBD training covered plant identification, documentation, and herbarium preservation. The STN training covered plant sample collection, sample preparation, extraction, and screening with STN assays. A total of 21 plant species were collected and sampled from which 30 extracts were screened with eight different assays. The training workshop was highly productive and the feedback was positive based on an end-of-training assessment carried out by the trainees. GIBEX was established in 2004 under the leadership of Ilya Raskin and Mary Ann Lila to advance ethical and purpose driven bioexploration in developing countries. To date, the GIBEX network covers four continents: Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Oceania.
Joseph Anthony Roberts and Mehran Niazi were recently named the 2009-2010 Wilbur M. Runk Scholarship winners. - posted February 4, 2010
Joseph Anthony Roberts were recently named co-recepient of the 2009-2010 Wilbur M. Runk Scholarship winners. Roberts is a graduate research assistant (Plant Biology and Pathology) and is advised by Specialist in Turf Management James Murphy and Specialist in Turfgrass Pathology Bruce Clarke. This annual scholarship is established in honor of Cumberland County Agricultural Extension Agent Wilbur M. Runk by his family, to provide tuition assistance to graduate students at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. This annual award for Extension Specialist graduate students is intended to assist the students in pursuing their educational goals.EcoTours Based on Bioexploration Research - posted February 4, 2010
Educational travel opportunities to far-flung destinations were recently featured in Rutgers Today and Rutgers Focus. Trips to Sweden, Bhutan, Russia, Central Asia, and Belize are led by the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences faculty members Lena Struwe (Plant Biology and Pathology), Ilya Raskin (Plant Biology and Pathology; Biotech Center), and others involved in bioexploration research. Raskin conceived the idea of a nonprofit global ecotourism and educational network, christened IBEX (short for International BioExploration Society), with operating principles focused on sustainability, respect for nature and local culture, and reinvestment in biodiversity research on medicinal plants for human health. All trips are open to the public. Funds generated by IBEX will support projects at universities in host countries linked to the Global Institute for BioExploration (GIBEX) at Rutgers, a research and development network founded by Raskin that promotes plant-based medicines.New Master’s Program in Business and Science Includes Biotech and Genomics Track - posted February 4, 2010
As part of the new Master of Business and Science (MBS) degree, a Biotechnology and Genomics concentration will be available for students in fall 2010. The MBS degree was just approved by the New Jersey’s President's council in December and combines MS level science work with courses in business and policy. Michael Lawton (Plant Biology & Pathology; Biotech Center) and Barbara Zilinskas played lead roles in developing the Biotech and Genomics concentration. The objective of the Master of Business and Science (MBS) degree with a concentration in Biotechnology and Genomics, is to educate students in the essential skills for managing technical development and commercial applications in industries that apply and make use of the molecular biological sciences, including biotechnology, genomics and proteomics, biochemistry, cell biology, systems biology, and nanobiotechnology. Students with an MBS in Biotechnology and Genomics may work as industry researchers, bioinformaticians, consultants and biotechnical scientists. Students may also work in pharmaceutical companies as well as research facilities. Other concentrations pertaining to the Cook community include Food Science, International Agriculture, and Sustainability. Full time and part-time students are welcome. Applications for fall 2010 are now being accepted. See the announcement and information on the new masters program.Joseph Heckman (Plant Biology and Pathology) chaired the Committee on Organic and Sustainable Agriculture (COSA) and provided leadership for organizing a one-day symposium for the American Society Agronomy meetings in Pittsburgh on the topic of “Human Ecology in Organic Farming Systems.” - posted January 4, 2010
The symposium addressed the consumer choice/social movement of the organic system that is providing market incentives to transition land to organic/sustainable production practices. The symposium also served to announce and celebrate the publication and release of a new book: “Organic Farming: The Ecological System.” Speakers included various agronomists and nine additional speakers of diverse backgrounds, including social scientists, historians of science, and an attorney. The symposium was attended by over 100 agronomists and soil scientists. To cover symposium expenses, Heckman secured $10,000 in funding from various organizations, including the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fertrell (producer of organic fertilizers), Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, Organic Farming Research Foundation, and Organic Valley. Abstracts and audio recordings are available online.