Christmas is coming up, so the SAPS team have been thinking about Christmas trees, gifts to give away and the wackier end of recent plant science research. Anyone want a photosynthesising table for Christmas? But first...
Spectacular prizes available for SAPS Associates…
Well, prizes for spectacular demonstrations. We want to know what demonstrations you put on in class to engage and excite your students about plant biology. Perhaps you create models of plant processes using unusual kit? Or perhaps you use microscopes and cameras to reveal the inner workings of plant cells? Or perhaps you show videos like time lapse photography of plant growth?
Share your idea with us by 31 December and we'll enter you in a prize draw. We've got three £15 John Lewis vouchers for the lucky winners so don't be shy.
Need some inspiration yourself? The National Science Learning Centre has a 1-day course dedicated to inspiring science demos on 6 February - and it's got a bursary attached. Find out more
New resources on bioethics for 11 – 16 year olds
Following their recent review of the ethical issues surrounding biofuel production, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics has produced two lessons, developed by teachers at Graveney School in South London. The first lesson introducing various biofuels and their advantages and disadvantages, while the second lesson includes a role-play exercise to aid further exploration of the impacts of biofuels production around the world.
Find out more
The science of Christmas trees
An ecologist goes to buy a Christmas tree… but what does his scientific knowledge tell him about which one to choose? Watch the video
Free demos, resources and seeds – all at the Association for Science Education Annual Conference
Come and visit the SAPS team on the Biology stand in the ASE Exhibition Marquee in the New Year. There’ll be live demos on the stand, plus huge amounts of resources to give away, with everything from posters to seeds. Our drop-in session (Thurs 5th Jan, noon – 5pm) will help you tackle biology practicals old and new, while Dr Jeremy Pritchard will take a whole new look at cells and pressure in our Biology in the Real World talk on Friday 6th Jan. Find out more
Christmas presents for the plant-lovers in your life
If you’re looking for a few last Christmas presents for plant-lovers – or just for yourself – why not have a look at some of these books:
Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire: a fascinating look on evolution, plant breeding, and the complex relationships between humans and the plants around them, from 17th century tulip mania, to marijuana growers today.
Richard Mabey, Weeds: a cultural history of weeds and their relationship to humanity over the years. Well-received by family members of the SAPS team last year!
Amy Stewart, Wicked Plants: as the subtitle puts it, this is the A to Z of plants that kill, maim, intoxicate and otherwise offend
The weird and the wonderful: Grow your own home
Don't build your home, grow it. In this brief TED talk, architect Mitchell Joachim argues that we should be growing living buildings for our cities. But would you really want to live in a house made out of meat? Watch the video
The weird and the wonderful: Biophotovoltaic furniture
If living buildings seem a step too far, how about furniture which provides you with electricity? An innovative collaboration between plant scientists, designers and biochemists has developed a table planted with biological fuel cells made from moss. The table forms part of a much broader project to consider the possibilities for novel energy sources. The moss table was built and displayed at the London Design Festival, and is now about to tour East Asia. Find out more
Ruth’s Research Highlights – with Dr Ruth Bastow
Keen to keep your scientific knowledge current? Dr Ruth Bastow, of the UK Plant Sciences Federation, has picked out the three research papers published this term that you ought to know about.
More than a century ago, Charles Darwin noticed that plants produced a substance that made them bend toward light. Now, biologists at the University of California, San Diego have succeeded in unraveling, for the first time, the complete chain of biochemical reactions that controls the synthesis of auxin, the hormone that regulates nearly all aspects of plant growth and development. Their discovery, detailed in a paper in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, will allow agricultural scientists to develop new ways to enhance or manipulate auxin production to improve the growth and yield of crops and other plants. Find out more
In October, thousands of families lost their homes and crops as flood
waters swept across Central America, while in Thailand huge tracts of
farmland were submerged as the country faced its worst flooding in 50
years. Across the globe agricultural production is at risk as
catastrophic flooding becomes a world-wide problem. Prolonged flooding
drastically reduces yields by cutting off the supply of oxygen crops
need to survive. Plant scientists have just identified the molecular
mechanism plants use to sense low oxygen levels. The discovery could
lead, eventually, to the production of high-yielding’, flood-tolerant
crops, benefiting farmers, markets and consumers across the globe. Find out more.
Picture yourself hiking through the woods or walking across a lawn. Now ask yourself: Do the bushes know that someone is brushing past them? Does the grass know that it is being crushed underfoot? Of course, plants don't think thoughts, but they do respond to being touched in a number of ways. But how do plants sense touch, gravity and other forces? Dr Elizabeth Haswell, of Washington University, reports on the latest thinking.
That's all from the SAPS team for this term, but we'll be back in the New Year with a whole set of new resources available from the website.
Have a very happy Christmas break!
The Administratort, Dan Jenkins, Ginny Page and Elisabeth Burmeister