A general cross-continent model to predict the effects of climate change on savanna vegetation isn’t as effective as examining individual savannas by continent, according to research published in Science this week.
Savannas – grasslands dotted with trees – cover about 20 percent of the earth’s land and play a critical role in storing atmospheric carbon, says Dr. William Hoffmann, associate professor of plant and microbial biology at North Carolina State University and co-author of the study. “We wanted to find out what controls savanna vegetation – essentially the density of trees within the savanna – and whether we can use a single global model to predict what will happen to savannas if global temperatures rise,” Hoffmann said.
Mary Lewis spent six weeks traveling around Costa Rica working on research designed to shed light on one of the most important diseases affecting bananas. While her focus was the fungal disease black sigatoka, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences student says the experience taught her just as much – or more – about what it takes to work in a foreign country and to interact with people from other cultures.
Over the years he’s spent studying cassava mosaic disease, Tanzanian scientist Dr. Joseph Ndunguru has noted something curious: Wherever there are DNA molecules called satellites associated with the geminiviruses contributing to the disease, symptoms are greater and losses are heavier – even in plants bred specifically to resist the disease.
Figuring out more about those subviral particles could be key, Ndunguru believes, to developing a strategy to beat the disease for good. That’s why he has teamed with CALS’ Dr. Linda Hanley-Bowdoin on a project designed to yield the scientific insight necessary to do just that.
Using micro-organisms able to survive in some of the most extreme environments on Earth, two CALS researchers are working to turn plants and algae into oil-producing factories efficient enough to help solve the problem of the world’s diminishing petroleum reserves.
This CALS senior and recipient of a national undergraduate research fellowship isn’t content to leave scientific questions unanswered. With plant geneticist Dr. Bob Franks, he’s been studying how flowers develop.