Understanding how plants grow can lead to improving crops.  Plant scientist Kathryn Barton, who joined Carnegie in 2001, investigates just that: what controls the plant’s body plan, from  the time it’s an embryo to its adult leaves. These processes include how plant parts form different orientations, from top to bottom, and different poles. She looks at regulation by small RNA’s, the function of small so-called Zipper proteins, and how hormone biosynthesis and response controls the plant’s growth.

Despite an enormous variety in leaf shape and arrangement, the basic body plan of plants is about the same: stems and leaves alternate in repeating units. The structure responsible for generating the aboveground portions of the plant, called the shoot apical meristem, is a dynamic but poorly understood cluster of cells located at the very tip of a shoot, at the bud. Barton and colleagues use Arabidopsis plants defective in shoot meristem function to explore the structure and function of this important plant component.

Barton’s meristem studies promise to illuminate one of the most intractable problems in plant developmental biology. And, since rules of plant patterning apply to all plants, her work may lead eventually to the design of useful plants for the future. Barton received her B.S. in molecular biology and her Ph. D. in genetics from the University of Wisconsin—Madison. She was then awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania before returning to the University of Wisconsin as an associate professor of genetics. Learn more at https://dpb.carnegiescience.edu/labs/barton-lab

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Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science,
July 17, 2017

Palo Alto, CA— The red algae called Porphyra and its ancestors have thrived for millions of years in the harsh habitat of the intertidal zone—exposed to fluctuating temperatures, high UV radiation, severe salt stress, and desiccation.

Red algae comprise some of the oldest non-bacterial photosynthetic organisms on Earth, and one of the most-ancient of all multicellular lineages. They are also fundamentally integrated into human culture and economics around the globe. Some red algae play a major role in building coral reefs while others serve as “seaweed” foods that are integral to various societies. Porphyra is included in salads (as are related genera of algae), is called “nori”

June 21, 2017

Palo Alto, CA— Algae dominate the oceans that cover nearly three-quarters of our planet, and produce half of the oxygen that we breathe. And yet fewer than 10 percent of the algae have been formally described in the scientific literature, as noted in a new review co-authored by Carnegie’s Arthur Grossman in Trends in Plant Science.

Algae are everywhere. They are part of crusts on desert surfaces and form massive blooms in lakes and oceans. They range in size from tiny single-celled organisms to giant kelp.

Algae also play crucial roles in human life. People have eaten “seaweed” (large macroalgae) for millennia. But algae can also represent a health hazard when toxic blooms

June 15, 2017

Pew announced the 2017 classes of biomedical scholars, Latin American fellows, and Pew-Stewart Scholars for Cancer Research today. Cesar-Cuevas Velazquez of the Department of Plant Biology Dinneny lab is among 37 researchers selected.

These new researchers join more than 900 biomedical scientists from many different research backgrounds. “The scholars and fellows will gather at Pew’s annual meeting for the next four years to discuss their research, learn from peers in other fields, and form lasting bonds that will help propel and stimulate cutting-edge research, “stated the Pew press release.

Velazquez is a postdoctoral researcher in the Dinneny lab. He received his Ph. D.

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution for Science, Carnegie Institution, Jiaying Zhu
June 1, 2017

Stanford, CA—Plants are stationary. This means that the way they grow must be highly internally regulated to use the surrounding resources in the most-advantageous way possible.

Just imagine if you were stuck in one spot and had to strategize to keep getting water and nutrients from the ground beneath your feet and sunlight on your skin. That’s how plants live!

Luckily for them, plants have a complex system of hormones that guide their growth and maximize their ability to take advantage of the environment. One mastermind hormone is called brassinosteroid.

It can turn on or off more than 2,000 plant genes, and is crucial to normal plant growth—including stem

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Carnegie will receive Phase II funding through Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that enables individuals worldwide to test bold ideas to address persistent health and development challenges. Department of Plant Biology Director Wolf Frommer,  with a team of researchers from the International Rice Research Institute, Kansas State University, and Iowa State University, will continue to pursue an innovative global health research project, titled “Transformative Strategy for Controlling Rice Blight.”

Rice bacterial blight is one of the major challenges to food security, and this project aims to achieve broad, durable

Carnegie researchers recently constructed genetically encoded FRET sensors for a variety of important molecules such as glucose and glutamate. The centerpiece of these sensors is a recognition element derived from the superfamily of bacterial binding protiens called periplasmic binding protein (PBPs), proteins that are primary receptors for moving chemicals  for hundreds of different small molecules. PBPs are ideally suited for sensor construction. The scientists fusie individual PBPs with a pair of variants and produced a large set of sensors, e.g. for sugars like maltose, ribose and glucose or for the neurotransmitter glutamate. These sensors have been adopted for measurement of sugar

Fresh water constitutes less than 1% of the surface water on earth, yet the importance of this simple molecule to all life forms is immeasurable. Water represents the most vital reagent for chemical reactions occurring in a cell. In plants, water provides the structural support necessary for plant growth. It acts as the carrier for nutrients absorbed from the soil and transported to the shoot. It also provides the chemical components necessary to generate sugar and biomass from light and carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. While the importance of water to plants is clear, an understanding as to how plants perceive water is limited. Most studies have focused on environmental conditions

Today, humanity is increasingly aware of the impact it has on the environment and the difficulties caused when the environment impacts our communities. Environmental change can be particularly harsh when the plants we use for food, fuel, feed and fiber are affected by this change. High salinity is an agricultural contaminant of increasing significance. Not only does this limit the land available for use in agriculture, but in land that has been used for generations, the combination of irrigation and evaporation gradually leads to increasing soil salinity.

The Dinneny lab focuses on understanding how developmental processes such as cell-type specification regulate responses to

Guillermo Blanc wants to understand the processes by which galaxies form and evolve over the course of the history of the universe. He studies local galaxies in the “present day” universe as well as very distant and therefore older galaxies to observe the early epochs of galaxy evolution. Blanc conducts a series of research projects on the properties of young and distant galaxies, the large-scale structure of the universe, the nature of Dark Energy—the mysterious repulsive force, the process of star formation at galactic scales, and the measurement of chemical abundances in galaxies.

To conduct this work, he takes a multi-wavelength approach including observations in the UV,

Peter van Keken studies the thermal and chemical evolution of the Earth. In particularly he looks at the causes and consequences of plate tectonics; element modeling of mantle convection,  and the dynamics of subduction zones--locations where one tectonic plate slides under another. He also studies mantle plumes; the integration of geodynamics with seismology; geochemistry and mineral physics. He uses parallel computing and scientific visualization in this work.

He received his BS and Ph D from the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands. Prior to joining Carnegie he was on the faculty of the University of Michigan.

Peter Driscoll studies the evolution of Earth’s core and magnetic field including magnetic pole reversal. Over the last 20 million or so years, the north and south magnetic poles on Earth have reversed about every 200,000, to 300,000 years and is now long overdue. He also investigates the Earth’s inner core structure; core-mantle coupling; tectonic-volatile cycling; orbital migration—how Earth’s orbit moves—and tidal dissipation—the dissipation of tidal forces between two closely orbiting bodies. He is also interested in planetary interiors, dynamos, upper planetary atmospheres and exoplanets—planets orbiting other stars. He uses large-scale numerical simulations in much of his research

Andrew Newman works in several areas in extragalactic astronomy, including the distribution of dark matter--the mysterious, invisible  matter that makes up most of the universe--on galaxies, the evolution of the structure and dynamics of massive early galaxies including dwarf galaxies, ellipticals and cluster. He uses tools such as gravitational lensing, stellar dynamics, and stellar population synthesis from data gathered from the Magellan, Keck, Palomar, and Hubble telescopes.

Newman received his AB in physics and mathematics from the Washington University in St. Louis, and his MS and Ph D in astrophysics from Caltech. Before becomming a staff astronomer in 2015, he was a