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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3 reasons I attend scientific conferences. What are yours?

10 May 2016

By Keir Bailey, a PhD student at the University of York

What was the last conference you went to? Did you take time to think about what gained from it? Here are my top 3 things I took from attending UK Plant Science Federation (UKPSF) Conferences.

  1. Expose yourself to cutting-edge science

Exciting science from excited scientists.

Keir Bailey 2I remember my first UKPSF conference, in 2014, at York University, it was one of the first ever conferences I attended. The theme was ‘Sustaining Life on Earth’ and I was terribly eager to hear Cathie Martin, ‘the mother’ of the purple tomato, speak. Her lab had engineered tomatoes to make anthocyanins, the chemicals that make blueberries a super food, offering a promise of affordable health benefits. It had been in the news that these tomatoes were one step closer to reaching the UK supermarket shelves, so everyone was excited. Over the two days I heard not only Cathie’s talk but many others. I was in awe of the researchers who spoke so passionately and confidently about their work and how they aimed to help sustain life on Earth. This theme and passion continued in this years’ Molecules to Ecosystem’ conference. Continue reading

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PlantSci2016 conference: Plants in a changing world, from molecular to ecosystem

19 April 2016

By Geraint Parry, GARNet Coordinator

Geraint Parry

Geraint Parry

Five years after the inaugural meeting of the UK Plant Science Federation took place at the John Innes Centre (JIC) in 2011, the UK PlantSci 2016 conference returned to this worldwide centre for plant biology.

A glance through the schedule for this two-day meeting highlights the enormous breadth of interests found within the UKPSF membership. The topic of the meeting was ‘Plants in a Changing World, from Molecular to Ecosystem‘, and it truly covered all bases with talks on topics as diverse as on the wheat epigenome through to ecological studies of chalk grasslands. Each session was supported by different member organisations. Continue reading

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Actions for plant science in the UK – UKPSF Working Group reports

A personal overview – by Dr Sandy Knapp FRSB

Sandy A. paradoxaPlant science has a broad reach – from molecules to ecosystems, and from blue skies to near-market research and practical applications. The UKPSF was formed to bring the plant science sector together and to harness the power of our community to map out a future for plant sciences in the UK that ensures its continued growth and innovation, while fostering its key underpinning role in economic growth and helping the nation meet its needs and obligations. Continue reading

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Fast-tracking from the Gatsby Plant Science Summer School

Celia Knight FRSB talks to Dr Ed Mitchard

Celia photo 1It’s been 10 years since the first summer school and one of the 2005 alumni is leading his own research in an academic position already. I asked Ed Mitchard to write about his memories of attending the summer school and what he’s doing now.

I’m an academic at the University of Edinburgh studying tropical forest ecology and deforestation using satellite data: but ten years ago I attended a Gatsby Plants summer school, at the end of my 1st year studying Biological Sciences at Oxford. Continue reading

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How can plants change the world?

By Dr Joseph Buhagiar FSB, lecturer at the University of Malta. He received the first overseas award of the Royal Society of Biology’s Regional Grant Schemeplants

It all started with an email from David Urry on 6th January pertaining to the Regional Grant Scheme for 2015. Not that I am usually idle but the title for this year really caught my attention – Biology: Changing the World.

I wrote to David and asked if a member from outside of UK would be eligible for the call and he said that I was more than welcome to apply. So in the few remaining days to the deadline (12th January) we came up with a great application entitled: ‘How Plants Can Change the World’ since we wanted to use our Argotti Botanic Gardens as a backdrop to our own open day. Well, imagine our surprise when we were informed that we actually got the grant. Continue reading

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The Global Plant Council

Did you know the UK Plant Sciences Federation is a member of the Global Plant Council (GPC)?

What is the Global Plant Council?

The Global Plant Council (GPC) is a non-profit coalition of plant, crop, agricultural and environmental science societies from across the globe. It was founded in 2009 to provide a body that can speak with a single, strong voice in the policy and decision-making arena, at the global level. By connecting plant science organizations, we are bringing together all those involved in plant and crop research, education and training, to harness the wealth of knowledge and expertise found within our membership base to strengthen and facilitate the development of plant science for global challenges. Continue reading

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Saving the spud and engaging the public

Potato Q&A“How do you breed potatoes to taste nice?” “Can we use microbes to fight potato pathogens?” ”How is late blight spread?”

These were just some of the many questions sent in by the public to grill a panel of four potato researchers during the last Sense About Science live online Q&A . The session covered the threats faced by the humble spud and what some of the solutions to these threats might be. Continue reading

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The Gatsby Plants Summer School – thoughts from two of the 2005 alumni

By Celia Knight FRSB

As promised last time, this blog will focus on alumni stories.

I’m using the 10 year anniversary of the Gatsby Plants Summer School to track down current email addresses for the 94 students who attended the first school in 2005.  If you know anyone, please encourage them to get in touch with me.

Getting ready for group photoI recognized Jo Hepworth in the photo I posted previously and emailed her. Jo and I had worked together on the UKPSF Training and Skills working group last year. She replied,

“Gosh, 10 years – that’s quite a terrifying thought! I was reminded of it today in a sad way as also being 10 years since the London bombings, which we heard about while we were there. However, I more generally think of a much happier time when I remember that week – the photos are a blast from the past! I still have a CD of the band who played at one of the socials… Continue reading

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