Plant Health Studentships: opportunities for undergrads and providers

This post was originally published on the Royal Society of Biology’s blog on 9 January 2017.

Dr Celia Knight FRSB, plant science education and employability consultant, shares her thoughts on undergraduate opportunities.

What does a summer studentship mean to an undergraduate?

When considering whether to undertake a summer research studentship, placement, internship or work experience, undergraduates might wonder:

  • Does applying for a research studentship mean you have to know you want to do a PhD?
  • If you are an intern, should you expect to be paid?
  • Do placements mean you do a year out or year abroad?
  • Does work experience mean you don’t want an academic career?

Sometimes the answer to these questions is ‘yes’ – but it doesn’t have to be! Continue reading

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Helping urban agriculture take root

This post was originally published on the Royal Society of Biology’s blog on 9 January 2017.

Sam Lane AMRSB looks at some of the technologies and policies that will help cities grow their own food.

What if I told you there was a way to meet growing demands for food security, reduce causes of climate change, shrink supply chains and improve public health? Well, some think that urban agriculture might just be the answer, and plant biologists are in a prime position to get involved. Continue reading

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On the Horizon: Xylella fastidiosa — Microbe Post

By Benjamin Thompson, Head of Communications at the Microbiology Society

It’s not just humans and animals that are affected by emerging diseases. In this latest addition to the On the Horizon series, we learn about a poorly understood bacterium that causes significant hardships to farmers across the world. The Apulia region, a thin strip of southeast Italy that stretches out into the Ionian and Adriatic […]

via On the Horizon: Xylella fastidiosa — Microbe Post

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How does a flower come to be?

16 August 2016

By Ian Street, Research Associate at Dartmouth College

A flowering world

There are around 369,000 known flowering plant species on Earth today, by far the most numerous group of plants living on Earth by an order of magnitude. The next largest group is the ~15,000 species of bryophytes. Humans are 100% reliant on flowering plants for food, medicines, wood, air, culture, and our environment.

Death Valley, California super bloom, spring 2016. Photo by Nat Prunet.

Death Valley, California super bloom, spring 2016. Photo by Nat Prunet.

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The Nagoya Protocol: The fair and equitable use of genetic resources

3 August 2016

By Katie Beckett, ABS Project Manager at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

KBeckett Photo 2The world’s flora has been studied for millennia. The first plant records known to exist are from the Neolithic Revolution, about 1000 years ago, the same period that is often described as the Agricultural Revolution. Fast forwarding through history, from the work of Mendel to new drug discovery and advances in molecular biology, plant science is at the cutting edge of research and development (R&D) in many sectors around the world.

Pharmaceutical, food & beverage, cosmetic, textiles and agriculture are just a selection of those sectors that would not be where they are today without research into plants, their derivatives and by-products. Alongside industries researching plant material to develop innovative commercial products, the UK is home to several leading plant science university departments and research institutions, accessing plant genetic resources from around the world for their own research purposes. Continue reading

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Plant pest detection technologies: from research to real life

26 July 2016

By Barbara Agstner, economist at Fera Science

Barbara Agstner Fera science economistAs an economist working in a research organisation, part of my daily bread and butter is to assess costs and benefits of new technologies. A current example I am working on are detection devices, as part of a project on new approaches for the early detection of tree health pests and pathogens. To carry out such assessment, I need to know who is going to use these new technologies, in what way, and what the consequences are. In the case of a handheld ‘scanner’ for diseased plants, for example, will someone regularly scan all plants at an airport or nursery, and what will they do if they find a potentially diseased specimen? Is it an effective way to keep novel diseases out of our country, or can it help to manage a disease which is already here? What are current plant health measures, and how would the new technology sit with these?

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Plant IP – how the sands are shifting

27 June 2016

By Penny Maplestone FRSB, Chief Executive of the British Society of Plant Breeders

Penny 19Say the words broccoli and tomato to a group of European plant breeders and the chances are you will spark an excited and at times furious debate about the best way to protect Intellectual Property (IP) in plants.  Key decisions taken last year by the European Patent Office may have changed the plant IP landscape in Europe for ever.

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Building a vision for the future: creating a roadmap for UK plant sciences

9 June 2016

By Micha Hanzel, science policy intern, and Alessandro Allegra, senior science policy officer at the Royal Society of Biology

RoadmapPlant science has a central role to play in so many of the global challenges facing the world today, including our future food security, the conservation of biodiversity, sustaining ecosystem services, improving global health and mitigating impacts of global climate change. The UK is internationally recognised for its excellence in plant science, and as such is well positioned to help provide solutions across the range of challenges facing the planet now and in the future.

The UK Plant Sciences Federation (UKPSF), a special interest group of the Royal Society of Biology, plays a key role in this endeavour by providing a unified voice and a forum for the whole UK plant sciences community. The aim of the group is to increase understanding of the significance of plant sciences and formulate a coordinated strategy and vision that is used to inform policy. Continue reading

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State of the World’s Plants

31 May 2016

By Richard Deverell – Director, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew recently published the first annual report on the State of the World’s Plants, alongside an international science and policy symposium on the topic. Kew’s Director, Richard Deverell reflects on how it all began and why the work is so important.

stateoftheworldlandscape - small

Photo: Andre Dib

Why not plants?

Birds, amphibians, mammals have all been done – but not plants?  Why?

This was the simple question posed by Mike McCarthy, a writer and journalist, when Kathy Willis (Kew’s Director of Science) and I met him at Kew Gardens two years ago.

That was when the seed that became ‘State of the World’s Plants’ was planted – and I think we all owe Mike a debt of gratitude for his simple but important observation.

There was an important gap, one that Kew, working with our partners, could fill.

As ever in science – and in life generally – it is just as important to know what you don’t know as much as to know what you do know.

Science progresses only by individuals with imagination and curiosity asking questions – and then doing the hard work to answer them. Continue reading

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