Photos from Prague

I’m ashamed at how little I have written this year, even though I have had several ideas for blog posts. To help assuage some of my guilt, I will share a few photographs I have taken.

I’m rather lucky to be living near the Krč forest where I can, regularly, go walking. At the beginning of the year it was still winter and most of the trees were bare.

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Photos: New plants in the burned field

This is a short follow up to my previous post on the role of fire in the environment. I went back to the field about a month after the previous visit and after some good rainfall. While there had previously been only grasses where the field was burned, during this latest visit I saw a large variety of different plants had emerged.

This is how the unburned parts of the field looked during the latest visit. While there were a few sections of green growth, the majority was still yellow, dry and dead.

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Congratulations Angelika Czedik-Eysenberg

This is a very positive post where I can congratulate my friend and co-worker Angelika Czedik-Eysenberg for being one of five female scientists in Austria to receive a L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science fellowship!

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My paper on a new plant pathogen system


Different accessions of Brachypodium infected with Ustilago bromivora. The fungus is the black material in the spikelet. (Source: My new paper!)

I finally have the first publication from my PhD out! It’s quite a nice paper too which took a lot longer than expected. And it’s also open access so everyone can read it! If you do, you’ll learn about a new system we have set up for understanding plant pathogen interactions with the fungus Ustilago bromivora and the grass Brachypodium distachyon.

My contribution to this is almost entirely in bioinformatics. The genome assembly had been performed before I joined the group, but I did the genome analysis and comparative genomics, starting off visiting some collaborators in Munich. This was quite nice; going in a direction which is becoming more and more important and taking things further than I had before. Continue reading

Long Night Of Research

About two weeks ago I was involved in a public outreach programme, the Lange Nacht der Forschung (Long Night of Research). This was a series of events around Austria that had scientific organisations sharing their research with the public. I was one of the volunteers at the Gregor Mendel Institute‘s display at the Heldenplatz in Vienna. According to the head of public relations from the Austrian Academy of Science, about 12 000 people passed through the display tent!


Part of the GMI display with me in the background. (Source: APA)

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Flowering plants

As I will be leaving to study and do research in Austria tomorrow, I am going to have say goodbye to my plants. I plan to spread them around the family though so they should hopefully be well cared for. I did take some pictures recently when they were flowering and feel it’s worth sharing them.

I still have both the plants I got after my honours year and you can read more about them in my original post. The Delosperma echinatum hasn’t flowered much and I don’t have a new picture of it. I think that was because it got pushed off the window sill by my other pots and perhaps doesn’t get as much sun as it would like. The Mesembryanthemum crystallinum is still as sparkly as ever, though I don’t think anyone will be prepared to harvest the seeds every year. I do have some stored, however, and I’ll ask that it doesn’t get thrown away when it dies.

M. crystallinum flower

M. crystallinum flower

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Quicklinks: GMOs

I happened to find a number of stories about genetically modified organisms this past week and thought they might be worth sharing. Not only have the early pioneers of GM plants been awarded the World Food Prize but the British government seems to be pushing strongly for GM crops. I think this is great. The technology can do amazing things, especially if we’re going to be facing issues with climate change.

There are many people who claim it’s not safe but there’s really no evidence of that. The technology itself should be safe and the few studies that claim it’s not are poorly designed. There’s a post on Science Based Medicine that looks at the many flaws with a recent study that claim GM crops are hazardous to our health.

There may be valid criticisms of the behaviour of some companies, like Monsanto, but that’s no reason to jettison the whole field of GMOs. If you think a company makes computers unnecessarily expensive or hard to use you wouldn’t tell people not to use computers, you would tell that company to change it’s practices. Similarly, if there’s a problem with the way GMO producers behave then it’s fine to focus on that but don’t make unscientific claims about how dangerous GMOs are.