Hester Van Schalkwyk (Natural History Museum, London): "Shifts in wheat in the anthropocene"
"Wheat, a highly consumed crop in a large part of the world, is highly adaptable because of its large (17Gbp) and complex hexaploid genome resulting in the genetic potential to adjust to many environmental conditions (temperatures, moisture levels, soil conditions and altitudes). This allows wheat to grow from near the Arctic Circle to near the equator. Dwarfing the diversity of the wheat genome is the microbiome of wheat that contains thousands of species with millions of genes involved in biochemical pathways. Over just a few hundred years European agriculture progressed from fallow field strategies, to advanced crop rotations and high input (artificial fertilizers and pesticides) farming. Knowledge of microbes that can promote plant growth and health allows the engineering of beneficial microbial communities. This could lead towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural strategies, identifying agonistic and antagonistic relationships in wheat microbiomes as preliminary work for potential biocontrol of disease. Studying the microbiome of herbarium specimens allow us to investigate how selection for favourable traits and/or changes in agronomical practices in wheat and barley cultivation could select for a microbiome composition less favourable for nutrient uptake."
- What sort of features do they have, that we can measure?
- Are those features constant in a species?
- Do they vary among species?
- Do oospores provide better, or different, information compared to other taxonomic tools (e.g. nucleotide sequences)?
- Can they be used to understand the history, ecology or management of the environment?
The current study at PC will contribute to the answers to these questions, and the creation of a public image database of oospores of species in family Characeae."
"Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world with almost 20 000 species of plants, over 1 600 species of birds, more than 495 species of amphibians and 369 species of mammals, yet its arthropod fauna is almost unknown. Arthropods are the most biodiverse group on the planet, with 1 242 040 species described so far, about 80% of all animal diversity. The most successful groups are the Insecta and the Arachnida which is dominated by Acari (54 617 species) and spiders (43 579 species). In 2014, we set out to discover the unknown spider biodiversity of the cloud forest of Ecuador, we collected ~5481 adult spider specimens, distributed in 37 families. In total, 250 species were collected and we evaluated that 50% of the diversity is unknown, therefore we discovered 125 new species to science. As of today, we successfully described ~65 new species. From the coast to the high peak of the Andes, and east to the Amazonian rainforest, we present a world of arachnid biodiversity with focus of the spider family Dipluridae, Mysmenidae and Ctenidae."