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!

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Crushed hope...

Those of you who have been following the saga of my attempts to bulk my rapidly dwindling supplies of seed of the parasitic plant Striga gesnerioides would have shared my delight when it appeared that my tobacco hosts had been successfully infected ( see last blog post ). However, in a cruel twist of déjà vu, the emerged parasite shoots have turned black, withered and shrivelled to almost nothing...just as they did before. Failed again.

It just goes to show how much of research is pure guesswork. After my first attempt was unsuccessful, my supervisor and I decided that the conditions in the climate chamber had been too hot, practically cooking both the tobacco and the Striga parasites. Convinced that this was the main reason for failure, I was buoyened with optimism as I prepared Round Two, in the cooler controlled environment cabinet. But clearly the heat wasn't the issue after all. My supervisor now believes that the cultivar of tobacco we have - which we thought was a Striga susceptible 'Samsun' variety- isn't actually Samsun after all, but a resistant genotype (which wouldn't be too surprising as Striga gesnerioides normally parasitises cowpea, a different host completely). In order to check this, I am preparing some tobacco seedlings to grow in rhizotrons ( root observation chambers) where I can infect them with Striga myself by painting on the seeds with a paintbrush. If the parasite attaches , then we will know that the tobacco can be infected after all. If not...then it will be back to the drawing board. 

It is a great worry as my seed stock is getting lower and lower and this makes me hesitate to set up more experiments. If ONLY I had a whole vial of seed, enough to see me to the end of my PhD, then I wouldn't have to worry and could just plough ahead with as many experiments as I could manage... Having said that though, even if I did have gazillions of Striga seed, I would doubtlessly find something else to worry about in my research! 

PS I have also been blogging for the University of Sheffield's Science in Policy Group. To read my summary of our latest seminar - Dr Aaron Thierry on why climate scientists should advocate for action against climate change - click here! http://www.sheffieldscienceinpolicy.com/blog 

A very dead looking parasite shoot

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to hear about your parasites demise. Good luck with the next phase.


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