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External news items of interest for the plant biology community. This section will also incorporate members in the news. Select "Subscribe" to receive notifications of new postings to this section and/or subscribe to the RSS feed. Members, feel free to post links to news articles you are featured in relating to plant biology.


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Top tags: award  health  biofuels  GMO  NPR  Plant Physiology  Science  agriculture  The Scientist  AAAS  DOE  education  PNAS  Scientific American  university  Nature  Plant Summit  USDA  Fast Company  genomics  international  jobs  NIH  outreach  plant disease  Technology Review  The Guardian  The Plant Cell  Washington Post  White House 

AAAS Seeks Nominations for the 2014 AAAS Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Lecture

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Call for Nominations

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From Around the Web: your guide to plant biology news on the internet

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Genetic engineering of food crops was front and center in the media once again over the last few months.  Following the defeat of the genetically-modified (GM) foods labeling initiative in California (Proposition 37), long time anti-GM activist and journalist Mark Lynas apologized for his past activities and hailed genetic engineering as an important tool to help meet the nutritional demands of a growing global population.  His lecture to the Oxford Farming Conference can be viewed or read in its entirety here:  

An op/ed article in Forbes, "Can a Rose Catch Your Cold? Threat of 'Killer' Viral Plant Gene Is Latest Anti-GMO Rant []”, discussed a recent campaign against genetic engineering based on a paper published in GM Crops and Food: Biotechnology in Agriculture and the Food Chain []. The authors, Podevin and du Jardin, examine the possible expression of portions of the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) P6 gene that overlaps with the CaMV 35S promoter used to drive gene expression in many GM crops. Anti-GM advocates warn that expression of portions of P6 in biotech crops would have "serious ramifications for crop biotechnology and its regulation, but possibly even greater ones for consumers and farmers" (Independent Science News []).  

In a win for genetic engineering advocates, the Philippines have given the green light for distribution of golden rice—genetically modified to produce enhanced levels of vitamin A and expected to combat Vitamin A deficiency— to farmers.  The Guardian article, "After 30 years, is a GM food breakthrough finally here?” [] features ASPB members Cathie Martin and Jonathan Jones.  Cathie is quoted on the subject of excessive regulation, stating "At institutes like ours, we can prioritise research to bring new consumer health benefits and environmental benefits to market [via GM], as long as the regulatory process is not prohibitively expensive for publicly funded organizations;” whereas Jonathan touches on the safety record of genetically engineered crops, "When I started making GM plants 30 years ago I did wonder if there might be unknown unknowns. But the evidence now is clear. GM food and crops are as safe as non-GM food and crops.”  According to the article, distribution of golden rice is also under consideration in India and other unnamed nations.  

Articles on the science news website, Science Daily, recently featured several ASPB members, including: Zhiyong Wang, scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, and Patricia Springer, associate professor of genetics at the University of California, Riverside, for their work connecting brassinosteriod function to plant architecture (; José Dinneny, also at Carnegie, for his lab’s real time imaging of root growth to demonstrate a role for the endodermis and abscisic acid in guarding against root growth in inhospitable environments, recently published in The Plant Cell (; Robert Turgeon, professor at Cornell University, for demonstrating the involvement of SCARECROW in Kranz anatomy, which underlies the improved photosynthetic efficiency of C4 plants (; Elison Blancaflor, professor at the Samuel Roberts Nobel Foundation, for his review of the current hypotheses on gravitropism (; John Shanklin and Xiaohong Yu, at DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, for creating a bifunctional enzyme for efficient biofuel production (; and David Jackson, professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, for his lab’s work on boosting corn yields by increasing meristem size. David's lab found specific mutations in the gene FEA2 that lead to increased numbers of kernels. ( 

Additionally Lee Hadwiger, professor at Washington State University, was featured in a Capital Press article for his work on using fungal DNases to elicit plant immunity (   Finally, as pollution continues to throw curveballs at our crops, ASPB members Lisa Ainsworth and Andrew Leakey of the University of Illinois aim to generate an ozone-tolerant maize variety with the help of a recently awarded, multi-million dollar NSF grant.  Don Ort is also quoted in the Daily Illini article [] on the current possibility of transferring ozone resistance to field varieties of corn.

If you or your colleagues have been featured in the news and would like to be included in the next issue of ASPB News, please contact ASPB’s Associate Director of Public Affairs, Kathy Munkvold (

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Plant Scientists Gather to Prioritize Future Research Efforts

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Plant Science Research Summit Reconvenes

How will plant science research contribute to addressing the societal challenges of today and tomorrow? What areas of research will facilitate solutions to these challenges? And how will we train the next generation of plant scientists to most effectively meet the needs of the future? These are just a few of the questions tackled at the second phase of the Plant Science Research Summit in January at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Just after ringing in the new year with family and friends, a carefully selected group of sixteen participants – chosen for their diverse expertise across plant science – came together to ring in a new era for plant science research. The meeting served as a follow up to the 2011 Plant Science Research Summit and aimed to build upon the foundational work of that first meeting to develop a compelling set of recommended plant science research priorities aimed at addressing profound and urgent societal challenges. For two days, the participants set aside their personal research interests and worked diligently as representatives of the community to identify key areas of research that would move the field forward most efficiently toward solving grand challenges in agriculture and the environment, and contributing to the economy.

A written report establishing a strategic vision for plant science research over the next decade is expected to be completed in spring of 2013. It is ASPB’s hope that the report will inspire federal and private funding agencies, the scientific community, plant-related industries, commodity groups, and other key stakeholders to pursue a more coordinated research agenda that will span the entire discipline and generate new resources. The report will be shared widely within the plant science research community and we will encourage your feedback.  To stay up to date on Summit related activities, be the first to know when the report is released and easily provide feedback, simply add your email address on our website ( under "Follow Summit Activities via Email” (right), confirm, and choose the frequency for receiving updates.  We look forward to your continued engagement and the upcoming release of the report.  


From left to right: Dan Stanzione, Ian Baldwin, Toni Kutchan, April Burke (Lewis-Burke Associates), Sue Hartman (facilitator; the Hartman Group), Sally Mackenzie, Pat Schnable, Ana Caicedo, David Stern, Machi Dilworth, Ray Riley, Rob Horsch, Christoph Benning, Rob Last, and Nick Carpita. Absent from photo: Annie Schmitt, Pam Ronald, and Crispin Taylor (ASPB).


The Plant Science Research Summit has received direct or in kind support from the following sponsors:

  • American Society of Plant Biologists
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • National Science Foundation (Award # MCB-1136911)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (NIFA Award # 2011-67013-30637)
  • U.S. Department of Energy (Award # DOE-SC0006924)

Tags:  Plant Summit 

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From the Front Lines of the War on Genetically Engineered Crops…

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Thursday, January 31, 2013

An article in Forbes, "Can A Rose Catch Your Cold? Threat Of 'Killer' Viral Plant Gene Is Latest Anti-GMO Rant”, discusses recent news from the anti-GMO front. Activists have latched onto a paper exploring an overlapping gene in the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus 35S promoter that is used to drive expression of genes in many GM crops. The overlapping viral gene is responsible for the expression the P6 protein that is required for pathogenesis and inhibits viral silencing.  Here is a link to the original paper:   

After reading the paper by Podevin and du Jardin, do you think it’s likely that expression of portions of P6 in biotech crops would have "serious ramifications for crop biotechnology and its regulation, but possibly even greater ones for consumers and farmers" (Independent Science News)?


Forbes: Can A Rose Catch Your Cold? Threat Of 'Killer' Viral Plant Gene Is Latest Anti-GMO Rant

Podevin, N. and du Jardin, P. (2012) Possible consequences of the overlap between the CaMV 35S promoter regions in plant transformation vectors used and the viral gene VI in transgenic plants. GM Crops and Food: Biotechnology in Agriculture and the Food Chain 3:4, 296-300.

Independent Science News: Regulators Discover a Hidden Viral Gene in Commercial GMO Crops

Tags:  GMO 

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From Around the Web

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Articles on the science news website, Science Daily, recently featured several ASPB members, including: Zhangjun Fei, scientist at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (BTI)  and Jim Giovannoni, scientist at BTI and research molecular biologist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service, for their contributions to the completion of the watermelon genome sequence  (; Henrik Scheller, senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, for his lab’s work on tailoring plants for more efficient biofuel production (; Rob McClung, Professor of Biological Sciences at Dartmouth College, for his lab’s work on the connections between reduced water availability, stomatal opening, and circadian rhythms (; and Clint Springer, assistant professor of Biology at St. Joseph’s University, who discusses the environmental benefits of choosing a real Christmas tree for the holidays (  


Please visit the Plants in the News Blog at for easy access to all the articles highlighted in this column.            

"From Around the Web” represents a subset of the plant biology in the news posted on ASPB’s Plants in the News Blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.  To stay up to date, subscribe to the blog (, "like” us on Facebook (, and "follow” us on Twitter (   

If you or your colleagues have been featured in the news and would like to be included in the next issue of ASPB News, please contact ASPB’s Associate Director of Public Affairs, Kathy Munkvold (

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The Global Plant Council Seeks Executive Director

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Friday, January 11, 2013


Position announcement: Executive Director (60%) of the Global Plant Council

The Global Plant Council (GPC) is a coalition of 29 national plant and crop science organizations as well as plant breeding societies from around the world ( The key objective of the GPC is to increase the impact of plant and crop research to address global challenges and to make society and world leaders more aware of the important contributions that improved crop plants and the fundamental research that underpins their development can make to achieve food security and sustainable agriculture.

GPC has developed a Strategic Research Agenda identifying nine challenges for global societies and economies ("GPC Challenges for Global Action”) as priority areas of activity to which plant research and breeding can contribute.

In the next few years GPC will focus on promoting and advocating strategic and internationally competitive research and development via targeted research programs, embracing innovation, education and communication including general policy statements. To support these activities, GPC is seeking to employ a highly motivated and dynamic

Executive Director

The Executive Director (60% position) will report to the GPC Executive Board and work closely with the GPC Executive Board, the GPC President, and the GPC member societies in the successful execution of policies, programs and procedures established by the GPC. She/he will be the primary contact person for the GPC member societies in issues related to GPC and will have full authority in the overall administration and management/coordination of activities related to the GPC Challenges for Global Action. The Executive Director will oversee the effective utilization of the GPC financial resources and she/he will be actively involved in raising funds for support of GPC operations and programs.

The Executive Director must be objective and balanced in relation to different GPC member societies’ policies, the interests of the research community, and constraints in different parts of the world in advancing the GPC Challenges for Global Action. She/he must be able to explore, develop and maintain a robust network of contacts at national/international organizations and private/public funding agencies/foundations that support plant research and agricultural development.

GPC is looking for a candidate with the following profile:

  • A thorough understanding of science, with a Master or PhD degree in plant science and/or crop breeding
  • Knowledge and preferably experience of working with science societies and international organizations
  • Familiarity with research and innovation funding programs
  • Experience working in a global environment
  • Excellent communication and impacting skills with a thorough knowledge of English; other languages are a plus
  • Ability to act as an entrepreneur and acquire third party funding
  • Experience in project coordination and management skills
  • Ability to analyze complex situations, draw appropriate conclusions, and develop strategies for solutions and their implementation
  • Experience in advising policy makers on plant and crop research activities and policies strongly preferred

In her/his daily work, the GPC Executive Director will:

  • Assess priorities according to objectives
  • Represent GPC at meetings, conferences, and high level events with professionalism, commitment, and enthusiasm, projecting a positive image of plant science as a whole and the involvement of the GPC member societies
    • develop updated and structured information and presentations about GPC, its member societies, objectives, activities, success rate, and events, as well as about related issues at institutional level
    • develop and distribute on a regular basis communication material about GPC activities to both member societies and external stakeholders
  • Engage a network at the institutional level that is constantly enlarged at all levels.
    • establish and keep contacts with other international organizations (e.g., FAO, CGIAR, WHO, IPCC)
  • Be fully updated on major national and international initiatives in plant/crop research and breeding
    • be informed and informs GPC members about relevant funding programs
    • lead GPC initiatives in assessing relevant research programs
    • assess interest and priorities of opportunities for GPC in related areas
  • Look for/create opportunities to promote GPC and plant research and breeding
  • Organize events (e.g., GPC annual meeting, workshops) to promote GPC Challenges for Global Action
  • Manage and control the GPC budget

Candidates interested in this position are requested to send a PDF of their motivation letter including a detailed CV, preferred work venue (from home or in the office of a GPC member organization or some combination) and salary expectations to the Global Plant Council at by 10 February 2013 (Subject line: GPC Executive Director Position).

Only complete applications will be considered.


Additional country- and continent-specific requirements:

Europe: Work permit required for non-EU citizens.

U.S.: Only permanent residents and citizens may apply

Tags:  Global Plant Council  jobs 

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Do you think genetically engineered food is safe and beneficial?

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Friday, January 04, 2013

The debate over the safety and benefits of genetically engineered food continues to swirl in both the US and Europe.  A poll in the Guardian asks if "you are convinced that GM food is both safe and beneficial."  What do you think? Answer the poll at

As plant biologists, we have a strong understanding of the science underlying the genetic engineering of crop plants and can provide an informed opinion.  So please share this link widely and quickly with your colleagues.  The poll is open for only one more day!

Tags:  GMO  The Guardian 

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The National Academies, Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources Plans Agriculture Workforce Study

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Thursday, January 03, 2013

The National Academies, Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources (BANR) is planning a study on workforce needs in agriculture.  The excerpt below was taken directly from the inaugural BANR newsletter.

Workforce Needs in Agriculture
A strong and well-trained workforce in U.S. agriculture is necessary for the nation to meet the challenges of maintaining long-term adequacy of food, feed, fiber and biofuels. Although the United States has been a leader in global agricultural development, there are concerns that not enough skilled technical workers have been trained to meet the growing demands of the agricultural sciences. BANR proposes to convene a series of workshops under the framework of a consensus study to examine available data on students trained in the United States in various disciplines relevant to agriculture, assess information on agricultural workforce needs of academia, federal agencies and industry, and to discuss the education and training needs and how to attract future students to agricultural sciences.

Although there is anecdotal evidence of a shortage of a skilled agricultural workforce, the workforce pipeline is not well characterized. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education might have data on students trained in agriculture, but the available data are not necessarily organized in a way that would facilitate an assessment of workforce supply. On the demand side, the quantities of trained personnel needed and the expertise and skill required to fill jobs in industry, government, and academe have not been well-documented. The workforce needs range from BS graduates, for example, to conduct field work and studies, MS graduates to carry out a management plan, and Ph.D. researchers and project managers. The workforce needs for academia, federal agencies, and industry are likely to differ by disciplines, skill sets, and experience.

Collecting information on workforce supply and demand and getting representatives from different types of institutional employers to interpret the data would be a first step towards workforce planning in agriculture. A discussion of possible ways to attract students to agricultural and food science now would be helpful in addressing any gaps between workforce supply and demand in the future. The ultimate goal is to get "the right number of people with the right skills, experiences, and competencies in the right jobs at the right time” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). To bring national focus to the issue of workforce planning in agriculture, the NRC proposes to conduct a study encompassing a series of workshops. The first would focus on the needs related to plant sciences; the second on animal science and production; other workshop would cover additional fields and industry sectors.

For more information on BANR's projects-in-development, send an email to Robin Schoen -

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ASBP Convenes Second Phase of Plant Science Research Summit - Community Input Invited

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Friday, December 14, 2012

In September 2011, the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB)convened the Plant Science Research Summit- with support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, USDA, NSF, and DOE - to engage the broad plant science research community in developing a consensus plan to invigorate and guide plant science research over the next decade. During discussions following the meeting it became clear that although many critical issues and experimental challenges were raised, the community must further distill the input gleaned from the 2011 Summit into a succinct set of recommended plant science research priorities. We envision these recommendations as a tool to excite, engage, educate, and, perhaps most important, impact future budgetary discussions and decisions at the state and federal levels.

To achieve this objective, we will convene a second, smaller cohort of plant scientists in early 2013 (please visit the website for a list of participants). Importantly, the priorities and recommendations that emerge from this subsequent activity are not an immutable end point, and they will not be developed in isolation. Indeed, we are asking you, the plant science research community, to provide input today that will help inform the process and the development of research priorities. To share your thoughts, please visit the Plant Science Research Summit website ( and click the "COMMUNITY INPUT" tab at the upper right of the page. There, you will find links to three key questions:

  1. What are the three most critical plant science research priorities over the next 10 years? Why?
  2. Is the current direction/funding in plant science research aligned with the most critical research priorities?
  3. What are the greatest barriers to progress in plant science research today (e.g., funding, technology, resources, infrastructure)? What is being done to address these barriers?

Input can be provided directly on the website or by emailing For maximum impact, all feedback should be submitted by December 19, 2012. We encourage ongoing dialogue regarding the recommendations from the 2013 meeting, once they have been disseminated. Engagement and alignment with the broad community will be essential if our effort is to be successful in garnering additional research funds for plant science.

The more input we receive, the better; so please share this email widely among the greater plant science research community. Also, please be sure to sign up to receive email updates on our activities; instructions are located on the right side of the website.

We look forward to receiving your input!

The Plant Science Research Summit Team

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DOE Job Announcement - Microbiologist Position

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Friday, November 30, 2012

The Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Biological Systems Science Division is seeking a Microbiologist.  Please see the description below or at USA jobs:


Job Title: Microbiologist

Department: Department Of Energy

Job Announcement Number: 13-DE-SC-HQ-004

SALARY RANGE: $89,033.00 to$155,500.00 / Per Year

OPEN PERIOD: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 to Tuesday, December 11, 2012

SERIES & GRADE: GS-0403-13/15

POSITION INFORMATION: Full-time – Permanent

WHO MAY BE CONSIDERED: All current U. S. citizens.

The Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Biological Systems Science Division, is seeking a motivated and highly qualified individual to serve as the microbiologist responsible for all aspects of the program consisting of microbial genomics and microbial physiology research.

If selected for this position, at the full performance level, you will:

  1. Serve as a recognized technical authority and expert in microbial genomics and microbial physiology, and as such, have the responsibility to plan, coordinate, implement, and evaluate research programs in this field on a national and international level.
  2. You will serve as an expert and consultant to other biologists, scientists, and senior management in areas of assigned responsibility and serve as a Program Manager determining scientific focus and direction of the microbial genomics and microbial physiology aspects of the research program.
  3. You will examine and ascertain pioneering research needs and opportunities of the genomics research programs against scientific and technological advances and of potential needs of the DOE.
  4. You will prepare, justify, and support the portions of the budget relation to the microbial genomics and microbial physiology research and critically evaluate contractor, DOE laboratory, and grantee research proposals and performance.
  5. You will critically review reports and studies prepared by other offices in DOE and other Federal agencies as they impact the microbial genomics and Microbial physiology programs and develop and prepare analytical documents to communicate with top management.



· Must be a U.S. citizen

· All basic qualifications must be met by the closing date of announcement.

· Requires the successful completion of a background investigation.

· All documents must be submitted by 11:59 pm on closing date of announcement

· Must submit transcripts or course listing by 11:59pm on closing date.

· Males born after 12/31/59 must certify registration with the Selective Svc.

Tags:  doe  jobs 

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Andrew Benson Interview Now on YouTube

Posted By Nancy Winchester, Friday, November 30, 2012

Bob Buchanan, UC Berkeley, conducted an interview last June with Andrew Benson. A video based on the interview has been posted on YouTube together with the transcript. A brief description of the video is given on YouTube.

Benson worked closely with Calvin in research leading to the discovery of the photosynthesis carbon cycle. In the interview Benson describes how the research was done and also discloses previously unreported details surrounding the work. It is Bob's hope that the film will be useful for teaching.

The video served as the focus of a seminar Bob gave at the Energy Biosciences Institute upon its departure from the Calvin Laboratory for a new building. The seminar was the final EBI seminar in the Calvin Laboratory.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where Calvin held an appointment, has also posted the video on its website ( Bob presented the video during recent trips to Sweden, Germany, and Cuba, reporting that it was well received at each of the five places he visited.

Tags:  education  video 

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The Genes We Eat

Posted By Katie Engen, Friday, November 16, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 19, 2012

AAAS/Science Live presents - The Genes We Eat

As you pack in another mouthful of mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving, consider the thousands of years of domestication that turned the wild potato and other staple crops such as corn into a tasty traditional meal. Thanks to the genetic revolution, we now know more than ever before about the evolution of our favorite foods, and we have the power to shape their future by introducing genes that increase resistance against disease, drought, and pests.

However, many worry that these advances could also result in risks to our health and the environment. How should scientists address these fears? How will the foods of the future differ from those of the past? And how will the controversy about GM foods play out over the next decade? 

See how genomics experts Hans-Jörg Jacobsen and Jordi Garcia-Mas tackle these questions. Find us on Twitter at #ScienceLive. And don't forget, this and other chats are archived. 

Tags:  AAAS  GMO  Thanksgiving 

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AAAS Seeks Nominations for the 2013 AAAS Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Lecture

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Thursday, November 15, 2012

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Foundation (RMF), and the World Food Prize Foundation (WFPF) invite nominations for the 2013 AAAS Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Lecture to be held in Spring 2013 at AAAS Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The lecture was named for the Missouri research entomologist, Charles Valentine Riley, known for implementing one of the first successful uses of biological control of an insect pest. The annual lecture, which commenced in 2010, is aimed at highlighting the important role of agricultural research as the most basic human endeavor and to enhance agriculture through increased scientific knowledge.

Prior lecturers include ASPB members Roger Beachy (2010), then USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) director, and Pamela Ronald (2011), Professor, Department of Plant Pathology at the University of California, Davis.

*The 2013 nominees should be well-respected scientists working at the forefront of a pressing issue at the nexus of agriculture and society. They should have outstanding scientific contributions or significant policy accomplishments related to agriculture with demonstrated societal impact. The lecture carries an honorarium of $5,000.

Nominations should be typed and include: (1) the nominator’s name, title, institutional affiliation, email address, and phone number; (2) the nominee’s name, title, institutional affiliation, address, email address, and phone number; (3) a summary of the basis of the nomination (not to exceed 500 words); (4) a curriculum vitae (3 page maximum).

Please submit all nominations in PDF or Word format via email to Anne Moraske at by January 14, 2013. For more information, please contact Ms. Moraske by email or phone (202-326-6759).


Lecturer eligibility:

  • Nominees may not self-nominate;
  • Nominations must be for individuals and not institutions;
  • Members (and immediate family members) of the Selection Committee and staff of AAAS, RMF, and WFPF are ineligible

See AAAS flyer for more information.

Information regarding last year’s 2012 AAAS Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Lecture can be found here:

*Description from AAAS announcement

Tags:  AAAS 

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Call for Nominations: Borlaug CAST Communication Award

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Monday, November 12, 2012

Each year the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) presents the Borlaug CAST Communication Award for "outstanding achievement by a scientist, engineer, technologist, or other professional working in the agricultural, environmental, or food sectors for contributing to the advancement of science in the public policy arena.”

Nominations are due February 1, 2013. Nomination packets must include the following:

  • the enclosed nomination form, completed and scanned
  • a curriculum vitae of the nominee
  • a written statement of the candidate’s ability to disseminate research findings to the public that includes a list of pertinent publications, public speaking engagements, television and/or radio appearances, or other media activities within the past five years
  • a minimum of five (5) letters of support in PDF form in which the references assess the candidate’s ability to communicate science to the public. The nominator may be included as one of the five required references.

Email nomination packets to

More info at

Tags:  award 

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Garden Variety Mutants

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Monday, October 15, 2012

Geraniums are on the evolutionary fast track. A new comparative genomics study aims to find out why. 

via Texas Advanced Computing Center

 Header Image

Geraniums are actually natural mutants, evolving many times faster than their plant peers, according to Robert Jansen, professor of biology at The University of Texas at Austin.


Scientists use TACC's Ranger supercomputer to analyze unusual geranium genomes

Behold the geranium: mainstay of the home garden. These colorful bundles of blooms are actually quite unique, evolving many times faster than their plant peers, according to Robert Jansen, professor of biology at The University of Texas at Austin.... (continue reading)


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ASPB featured in International Innovation Journal

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Tuesday, June 19, 2012

ASPB president, Steve Huber, and executive director, Crispin Taylor, were featured in the May issue of International Innovation, a science and technology magazine based in Europe. The article focuses on ASPB as an organization, highlighting its roles as a publisher of two leading plant biology journals, Plant Physiology and The Plant Cell, the textbook, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Plants, and the online resource, The Arabidopsis Book; an educator, providing resources such as Teaching Tools in Plant Biology and educational outreach to teachers and students from kindergarten to graduate school; and in enabling relationships among plant biologists worldwide through the ASPB annual meeting.

The article also emphasized ASPB’s evolution in supporting an ever changing field of plant biology, where new subdisciplines continue to emerge and the borders of traditional subdisciplines have begun to blur. It also stresses the importance of ASPB’s public affairs initiatives in keeping "Congress and the Executive Branch informed about the benefits of investments in fundamental plant science research.”

To read the entire article, visit the following website to register for free access:

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Nominations Being Accepted for AAAS Mentor Awards

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Friday, June 15, 2012

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is accepting nominations for two mentor awards, the Lifetime Mentor Award and the Mentor Award. Both awards recognize individuals for their leadership and commitment in increasing participation of underrepresented groups in science and engineering. Specifically, nominees should have mentored a number of students from underrepresented groups that have gone onto receive PhDs in these fields or have contributed to significantly increasing the number of students from underrepresented groups that have completed PhDs in a department, college, or institution.

Examples of commitment to this effort include:

  • the number and diversity of students mentored;
  • assisting students to present and publish their work, to find financial aid, and to provide career guidance;
  • providing psychological support, encouragement, and essential strategies for life in the scholarly community;
  • continued interest in the individual's professional advancement.

For more information about the awards and the nomination process, please visit the award website:

All materials must be received by July 31, 2012.

Tags:  AAAS  award 

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From Around the Web: Your Guide to Plant Biology News on the Internet

Posted By Kaitlin Chell, Monday, June 11, 2012
Updated: Monday, June 11, 2012

Articles on the science news website, Science Daily, recently featured a long list of ASPB members, including: Sheng Yang He, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Michigan State University, for his lab’s work on the balance between plant growth and pest and pathogen resistance (; Takato Imaizumi, assistant professor of biology at the University of Washington, for his lab’s work on a photoreceptor involved in flowering time, recently published in Science (; Joseph Noel, professor and director of the Jack H. Skirball Center for Chemical Biology and Proteomics at the Salk Institute, and Eve Syrkin Wurtele, professor of genetics, development and cell biology at Iowa State University, for their identification of three proteins involved in fatty acid metabolism, recently published in Nature, that could be used to boost seed oil production of crop plants (; Michael Thomashow, director of the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory also at Michigan State University, for his lab’s work on the connection between circadian rhythms and freezing tolerance (; and Tom Brutnell, director of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and Jeff Bennetzen, professor of genetics at the University of Georgia, for their work in sequencing the Setaria genome, to be used as a reference genome for switchgrass (

Interviews with ASPB members, Sharon Long (, professor of biology at Stanford University, and Pamela Ronald (, professor of plant pathology at the University of California, Davis, were featured on Scientific American Blogs in April. The series included graduate student interviews with leading women biologists from the Women in Science Symposium held at Cornell University in April.

Tomatoes were the "it” plant in the media recently as the tomato genome was published in Nature in May. Both the New York Times ( and the Washington Post ( featured Jim Giovannoni, a scientist at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research and USDA-ARS, in articles on the genomic sequences of a Heinz tomato variety and a wild relative of tomato. Avtar Handa, professor of horticulture at Purdue University, was featured in the New York Times blog, Green (, for his work on finding a genetic cure for blossom end rot of tomato, a condition resulting in economic losses in tomato production.

In keeping with the tomato theme, Harry Klee, professor of horticulture at the University of Florida, in addition to being recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences, was featured on the Wired Science Blog ( and National Public Radio’s food blog, the Salt (, for his lab’s recent work published in Current Biology on the chemical basis of tomato flavor. Harry was also interviewed in an article appearing in the The Scientist ( on making a successful transition from industry to academia, something that he also wrote about in Plant Physiology in 2001 (

ASPB President Elect, Peggy Lemaux also appeared in an article on the Salt ( concerning California’s upcoming referendum on modified food labeling. Work from Mark Johnson’s laboratory on the precision of fertilization of a single ovule by a single pollen tube, recently published in Current Biology, was featured in a New York Times article ( Mark is an associate professor of biology at Brown University. And BBC News reported on ( the release of What a Plant Knows, a book by ASPB member, Daniel Chamovitz, Director of the Manna Center for Plant Biosciences at Tel Aviv University, on how plants perceive and respond to their environment.

"From Around the Web” represents a subset of the plant biology in the news posted on ASPB’s Plants in the News Blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feed. To stay up to date, subscribe to the blog (, "like” us on Facebook (, and "follow” us on Twitter (

Tags:  ASPB members 

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High Tides for ASPB SURF Winners

Posted By Katie Engen, Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The ASPB Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program funds young investigators as they conduct novel research in a mentor’s lab. This program is rooted in helping these budding scientists to successfully launch a career in plant biology. SURF emphasizes both quality research alongside outreach and mentoring as integral to professional development. Two recent SURF recipients exemplify the success of the program.

Jonathan Herrmann (pictured at right) and his mentor Joe Jez (both of Washington University - St. Louis, MO) have wasted no time since Jonathan won a SURF award in 2011. Along with four other authors Herrmann and Jez were published in the May 24th Science Express highlights under the entry entitled How GH3 Proteins Control Plant Hormones . Publication in Science Express precedes publication of the full article in an upcoming print edition of Science.

When asked about the research, Jez (pictured at left) explained, "The work reveals how a large gene family in plants recognizes a structurally diverse set of signaling molecules — jasmonates, auxins, and benzoates — and how these enzymes work as gate-keepers to control hormone responses — think of them as cellular stop-lights. Jonathan worked with Corey Westfall (one of the two first authors) to express, purify, and crystallize the GH3 proteins and to analyze their molecular function. This was an exciting project for everyone involved and emphasizes the value of getting undergraduate students hooked on plant biology and biochemistry!”

Herrmann added, "Thank you to ASPB for the opportunities they afford undergraduates to perform research. Undergraduates really can perform meaningful research and the ASPB-SURF program shows that ASPB believes in the students who are the future of the field of plant biology.”

Bobby Bayne (pictured at right) just received his 2012 SURF award this spring for his project, Evaluating the Interaction between the KC1 K + Channel and the SNARE SYP121, and already he is participating in international outreach. Bobby, a student at University of North Carolina, has been visiting the University of Glasgow and working with his SURF mentor, Michael Blatt. On May 18th Bobby participated along with Glasgow student Emanuela Sani in the first international Fascination of Plants Day. This world-wide event included the activities jointly sponsored by the University of Glasgow at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Bobby had the opportunity to celebrate plants and demonstrate pigment extractions to nearly 500 school children over the course of the day.

Bobby enthused, "Glasgow's Fascination of Plants Day was a great opportunity to connect with Glasgow's community. I taught British schoolchildren about some of the ways that plant science might benefit society in the future. They were very interested and enjoyed the activities that we had arranged for them. It was encouraging to see children get so excited about plants! Science education is an important part of creating future scientists, and I was proud to take part. Indeed, being able to effectively share knowledge is crucial for scientific progress, and this was good practice in doing that at the most fundamental level."

Videos made for the event by the university’s plant science research group can be seen at ( More information about this event will be published in the July/August issue of ASPB News.

Tags:  education  Science 

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ASPB Invited Back to Host Science Outreach at the White House

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Tuesday, May 15, 2012

ASPB Invited Back to Host Science Outreach at the White House

Society ‘Hops to It’ to Bring Plant Biology to 2012 Easter Egg Roll

By Katie Engen and Kathy Munkvold

On Monday, April 9, ASPB returned to the White House to host a plant science outreach booth as part of the 134th Easter Egg Roll. A traditional event started in 1878 by President Rutherford B. and Lucy Hayes, the Easter Egg Roll soon became known as an exhilarating day of play for everyone. This year’s theme, "Let's go. Let's play. Let's move," embodied that same high-energy spirit. From 7:30 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. some 30,000 visitors (in five waves of 6,000 people) from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. hopped, strolled, sprinted, and rolled across the South Lawn to all the activities, sports, and games.

At midday the Obama Family and Easter Bunny greeted the crowd from the White House South Portico then joined the fun on the South Lawn. The First Lady spoke at the Kids' Kitchen with weather guru Al Roker, Chef Marcus Samuelsson, and three children about gardening and how fresh, seasonal eating is a healthy goal everyone should aim to achieve. Afterwards Mrs. Obama greeted members of the crowd, including ASPB President Steve Huber and several others who were volunteering in the ASPB booth. Steve shook the First Lady’s hand while wearing a lab apron bearing the ASPB name, and Mrs. Obama indicated she recognized the Society. Steve thanked her for all her effective efforts to promote health and nutrition, pleased that such a brief encounter sparked a positive comment for ASPB.

Inside the ASPB ‘Quick-Like-a-Bunny’ booth youngsters sowed lettuce, carrot, and radish seeds to start mini garden cups full of yummy bunny- and kid-friendly food. These quick-germinating vegetable seeds were selected since they provide nutritious foods that help brains and bodies act quick-like-a-bunny, too. Volunteers from the Society guided the young visitors to assemble garden cups and chat about what seeds are, how plants develop, and the many ways plants are important in daily life. For example, many families were pleased to learn that the garden cups and lids were made not from regular plastic but with recyclable corn-based material. Overall, booth visitors were very eager to dig in to all the biology concepts we offered, a response our volunteers especially appreciated since ASPB was the only scientific society hosting an activity on the South Lawn this year.

We really had to ‘hop to it’ to keep pace with the crowd of youngsters eager to make garden cups and talk about plants. Staff representatives Katie Engen, Shoshana Kronfeld, Diane McCauley, Kathy Munkvold, and Crispin Taylor are grateful for the expertise and energy volunteered by the Society members and associates who joined ASPB President Steve Huber for a fun and productive day. Thank you: Andrew Auffarth, Briana Bostic, Elena Del Campillo, Brennah Engen, Joan Huber, Melantha Jackson, Samuel Jones, Daniela Parker, James Parker, Janet Slovin, Clare Taylor, Cynthia Taylor, Dylan Taylor, Emma Taylor, George Ude, and Maria Elena Zavala.

Well-deserved thanks also goes to the six volunteers from the general public assigned to our booth by the White House. The booth benefited from their energetic efforts, and each volunteer learned a bit about plant biology, too.

For more photos, please see our Facebook site at:

Tags:  the White House 

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American Society of Plant Biologists Members Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Plant biology research was well represented in this year’s selections to the National Academy of Sciences. Four American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) members were elected as new members and two as foreign associates. Each year the Academy elects a maximum of 84 members and 21 foreign associates based on their exemplary achievements in original research. Congratulations to the following plant biologists and ASPB members selected for this highest honor:

New members

  • Xinnian DongProfessor of Biology, Duke University; and Howard Hughes Medical Institute-Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Investigator. Xinnian currently serves as a coeditor for The Plant Cell and has previously served as a monitoring editor for Plant Physiology.
  • Harry KleeProfessor of Horticultural Sciences; University of Florida, Gainesville.
  • Sabeeha MerchantProfessor of Biochemistry; University of California, Los Angeles. Sabeeha has received several ASPB awards, including the Charles Albert Shull Award in 1999, Charles F. Kettering Award 2010, and was named and ASPB Fellow in 2008.
  • Natasha RaikhelDistinguished Professor of Plant Biology; University of California, Riverside. Natasha served as Editor in Chief of Plant Physiology from 2000-2005, received the ASPB Stephen Hales Prize in 2004, and was named an ASPB Fellow in 2007.

Foreign Associates

  • George CouplandDirector, Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research.
  • Ottoline LeyserAssociate Director; The Sainsbury Laboratory University of Cambridge. Ottoline formerly served on the editorial board of The Arabidopsis Book (TAB).

One additional plant biologist, unaffiliated with the society, was also selected as a new member:

  • Pedro SanchezDirector, Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment; The Earth Institute, Columbia University.

Tags:  award  National Academies 

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ASPB Member Steve Kay Named Dean of USC’s College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Thursday, May 03, 2012

The University of Southern California (USC) announced the appointment of ASPB member Steve Kay as dean of the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Kay currently serves as Dean and Richard C. Atkinson Chair in the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of California, San Diego, where he also holds the title of Distinguished Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology. His appointment as dean at USC officially begins October 1, 2012.

Kay has been honored for his pioneering research in the genetics of the circadian rhythms of plants by his selection to the National Academy of Sciences in 2008, as an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow in 2009, and as the recipient of the ASPB Martin Gibbs Medal in 2011. Steve will be speaking at the Martin Gibbs Medal Symposium on Clock Biology at the Plant Biology 2012 meeting in Austin, Texas on July 22 (

Congratulations to Steve on his new position!



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Department of Energy to Host Educational Opportunities in Bioenergy at National Laboratories Webinar

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC , Thursday, April 19, 2012

On April 17, the Department of Energy (DOE)’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced that it will present a live webcast called ‘Educational Opportunities on Bioenergy’ on Monday, April 23 from 2:00-3:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time.

The webinar will feature experts from DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory discussing bioenergy research programs as well as various educational opportunities available at both labs for undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students. Presenters in the webinar will include current and past student participants, and leaders of the bioenergy programs at the labs. Specifically, the webinar will discuss the different bioenergy research programs available to students at these labs, and provide a list of contacts that can facilitate student involvement in these programs.

The webinar will have a Q&A segment before its conclusion, and participants may submit questions before the webcast. Questions should be sent to Ashley Rose (

While the webcast is free of charge, space is limited. Participants must register in advance to receive the Internet URL for the presentation.

Developing alternative energy sources, including bioenergy, remains a top priority for the Obama Administration as a way to reduce dependence on foreign oil and bolster the economy. In the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request, EERE would receive $2.3 billion, up 25 percent from FY 2012. EERE is among the biggest winners in the President’s FY 2013 budget request, signifying the Administration’s commitment to improving energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

More information on this webinar, including the link for advanced registration, can be found at

Tags:  biofuels  DOE  education 

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ASPB Returns for More Science Outreach at the White House

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Sunday, April 08, 2012

ASPB Returns for More Science Outreach at the White House

Plant biologists help kids learn how plants impact their lives during Easter Egg Roll

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- The American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) returns today to the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. to offer science activities for kids as part of the 2012 White House Easter Egg Roll. About 35,000 entry ticket winners representing all 50 states will enjoy the 134th occurrence of this annual event.

The theme of this year’s Easter Egg Roll is "Let's Go, Let's Play, Let's Move!" and is aimed at promoting health and wellness. All of the activities will encourage children to lead healthy and active lives and follow the First Lady’sLet’s Move! initiative.

ASPB will staff the hands-on activity ‘Quick-Like-A-Bunny’ Garden Cup Necklaces, where kids plant quick-germinating seeds to grow delicious vegetables that provide a nutritious boost towards thinking and moving ‘quick like a bunny.’ As youngsters create their miniature gardens friendly experts will chat with them about seed care, plant growth and health.

During this election year, ASPB booth visitors also get to ‘hop to it’ and vote for their favorite plant-based products. Will voters choose the food, the fibers, or the fuels made from plants as the products they need most for thinking and acting ‘quick like a bunny’ every day?

ABOUT THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF PLANT BIOLOGISTS: ASPB is a professional scientific society, headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, devoted to the advancement of the plant sciences worldwide. With a membership of more than 4,500 plant scientists from throughout the United States and more than 50 other nations, the Society publishes two of the most widely cited plant science journals: The Plant Cell and Plant Physiology, as well as the innovative online products Teaching Tools in Plant Biology and The Arabidopsis Book. For more information about ASPB, please visit Also follow ASPB on Twitter @ASPB.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION: The National Park Foundation (NPF) is the official charity of America’s 394 national parks, including the South Lawn of the White House. NPF assists in the coordination and planning of the annual White House Easter Egg Roll and also accepts donations to benefit the event. Chartered by Congress, NPF works hand in hand with the National Park Service to strengthen and connect all Americans to our parks, so they are protected for present and future generations. It is a legacy that began more than a century ago, when private citizens took action to first establish, then protect and endow our national parks. Today, the National Park Foundation carries on that tradition as the only national charitable partner for America’s national parks. To learn more visit


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ASPB Member Guiliang Tang Discovers a New Tool for Studying Small RNA Function in Plants

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Thursday, March 08, 2012

Recently small RNAs have accounted for one of the hottest areas of plant biology research. These tiny fragments of RNA are often responsible for limiting the expression of genes important for basic plant functions such as growth and development. However, determining the role of individual small RNAs has not been easy. Fortunately, the work of Guiliang Tang, ASPB member and Associate Professor at Michigan Technological University, has added another tool to the toolbox for assessing small RNA function in plants. Small tandem target mimics (STTMs) disrupt the actions of small RNAs by binding their small RNA targets, eventually leading to their destruction. By analyzing the responses of plants expressing STTMs, researchers can learn more about a particular small RNA’s function.

This work, published in the Plant Cell, was recently featured in an article on the science news website Science Daily. The article highlights the usefulness of Guiliang’s approach, citing the method’s flexibility. In the article Guiliang states, "You can use this to study the function of any small RNA in the cell." Furthermore, the method allows for the simultaneous analysis of related members of a small RNA family, making this a very powerful tool.

Tags:  genomics  Science Daily 

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