Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Caroline and I am a PhD student at the University of Sheffield. My research project focuses on Striga - a genus of parasitic plants that devastates harvests by infecting food crops. I am exploring the defence reactions that can make host plants more resistant against Striga. Due to my ongoing battles with anorexia, I haven't made as much progress as I would have liked but I am determined to finish the course.

This blog charts the ups and downs of life in the lab, plus my dreams to become a science communicator and forays into public engagement and science policy....all while trying to keep my mental and physical health intact. Along the way, I'll also be sharing new plant science stories, and profiles of some of the researchers who inspire me on this journey. So whether you have a fascination for plants, are curious about what science research involves, or just wonder what exactly I do all day, read on - I hope you find it entertaining!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

It's an infection!

My PhD project - investigating the differences between compatible and susceptible interactions between host plants and parasitic weeds- depends in my model system working. If I cannot get Striga gesnerioides, a vicious parasite which devastates cowpea harvests especially across Africa, to infect Arabidopsis thaliana, the 'fruit fly of the plant world' then my plans would be scuppered and it would mean a compete project redesign. So I was very nervous when it came to opening up my first pilot rhizotrons systems, infected way back in December last year. Peeling off the foil covers, I wondered what I would find. A scattering of dead parasite seed? Or flourishing tubercules, connected to he host root system?
Striga gesnerioides tubercules on Arabidopsis thaliana roots

I need not have worried, the infection was a success! Large, dark knobbly tubercules were clearly visible on the Arabidopsis roots, at the sites where the parasite seed had germinated, sprouted radicles and forced their way into the root system. The parasites are now living off the water and sugars which the poor Arabidopsis hosts supply through their vascular system.  Some of the tubercules had even advanced to the stage of sending up flowering shoots, a clear sign of a happy parasite! So it's chicks away and full throttle forward with my research agenda!
A flowering Striga gesnerioides tubercule

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