Ritual of Oak

"Be humble for you are made of earth, be noble for you are made of stars." – Serbian Proverb

Month: March, 2018

Citizen Science: A future that involves everyone

Helianthus whorl.jpg
By L. Shyamal – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

I’m going to start by proselytizing for a moment. I think citizen science is a part of the solution to scientific illiteracy in the 21st century. We live in a world where the institution of science is being quietly degraded from the shadows by the agendas of corporations and the machinations of fools. Vaccines are called into question despite the overwhelming body of evidence that demonstrates their safety and efficacy. There are people, that breathe the same air that I do, that believe the Earth is flat. That the world government has something to gain by lying to the public about the shape of the Earth. I think that part of the reason we have arrived at this point is the division between “Academia” and everyone else. Laypeople often see academics with their heads in the clouds, oblivious to the struggles of the real world. Finding ways to bridge this gap will be fundamental to returning some of these dangerous and foolish ideas to the dominion of madness.

OK. This post is actually about sunflowers.

Researchers in the UK have demonstrated for the first time that sunflowers ( Helianthus annuus ) are capable of producing seed heads with Fibonacci structure and non-Fibonacci structure.

The Fibonacci sequence (1,2,3,5,8,13,21…) is a series of integers of which each number after the second is the sum of the previous two numbers. This sequence is frequently observed in nature, and the cause for this is not yet well understood.

In sunflowers the seed heads have been previously understood to always have Fibonacci structure present, but this research was able to show that this isn’t the case. This was the largest study of its kind at the time of publishing, and the breadth of data collected allowed for this difference to be discovered.

Research Citation: Swinton J, Ochu E, The MSI Turing’s Sunflower Consortium. 2016 Novel Fibonacci and non-Fibonacci structure in the sunflower: results of a citizen science experiment. R. Soc. open sci. 3: 160091. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.160091



How does cotton deal with stress?

Balls of cotton ready for harvest
Public Domain, Link


Want to know how to put an audience to sleep? Write a blog post about abscisic acid signalling regulators. Want to know how to wake them back up?

Big gong.

Ok, yeah, ouch.

The first big question from those of us who haven’t taken upper level botanical university courses is, of course: What exactly is abscisic acid? Abscisic acid is a plant hormone that is responsible for a wide range of processes. It participates in plant development, dormancy, and stress response.

OK, not too bad. So what about signalling regulators? Cell signalling is the process that involves the binding of a “signal” molecule to a receptor. This binding triggers an event. A signalling regulator, then, is some protein that participates in regulating the signalling process.

The abscisic acid (ABA) receptors, pyrabactin resistance1 / PYR1-like/ regulatory components of ABA receptor (which we will refer to as PYLs for both of our sakes), have been well researched in both Arabidopsis (the model plant), and rice. Researchers at Henan University in China have now expanded the knowledge base to include cotton.

Cotton (Gossypium sp. ), as is likely apparent, is a fundamentally important fiber crop. The research that Zhang et al. have done paves the way for future investigations into stress response in cotton. Of course, with the consequences of human-mediated climate change looming over the horizon, this brand of research will continue to play a pivotal role in ensuring there is a future for mankind.

Research Citation: Zhang et al. 2017. Genome-wide identification of ABA receptor PYL family and expression analysis of PYLs in response to ABA and osmotic stress in Gossypium. PeerJ. [Internet]. [cited 2018 Mar 12]