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DGE Newsletter, January 2008
Field & Berry Lab Groups
Jan. 14: The theme for this Winter Quarter will be Plant Systematics. We listed the many Families that have representatives in this area of California. Each participant will collect information and hopefully a sample from at least one live plant in one of the Families. And each week, three Families will be discussed. We also plan to have three Field Trips to Jasper Ridge, the first one on Feb. 4.
Tasting: Chris brought six species of mushrooms (primitive plants) which he had purchased at Draeger's Market to avoid any possibility of liability.
Jan. 21: Adam Wolf opened with a description and examples of the Ericaceae. These include the Madrone, Manzanita & Azalea. Yuka Estrada followed with a power point presentation of the Rosaceae which include many familiar fruit trees such as apple, pear & cherry. Rob Genova concluded with the Brassicaceae that includes mustard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and Arabidopsis (a favorite for genetic studies in the Dept. Plant Biology). Nona Chiariello also brought in many examples of these same Family Groups for us to examine.
Tasting: Rob brought four jars of mustard including Madras Curry, Creole/Louisiana, Garlic, and Mendocino hot & sweet to taste with pretzels
Jan. 28: Kyla Dahlin led off with detailed descriptions of the Pinaceae which included most of the pines and firs in California. She also provided some packaged pine nuts that were an important food for many native peoples worldwide. In addition, we tasted her delicate tea brewed from the tips of Douglas Fir needles. Luis Fernandez introduced the Malvaceae or Mallow Family that can be divided into four familiar groups. One includes hibiscus, okra, cotton & hollyhock which characteristically exude a slimy substance when cut; another includes kapok and the stinky durian; a third has cocoa & cola nuts; while jute is in a fourth group. Luis brought tea to taste that he had brewed from dried hibiscus blossoms. He told us that this type of sweetened drink is very popular throughout Latin America. Chris Field finished up with the Lauraceae that includes avacado, laurel cinnamon & Calif. bay. He told us members of this family featured large in early Greek mythology and witchcraft.
Jan. 22: Dr. Ian T. Baldwin from the Max Planck Inst. for Chemical Ecology gave a joint Seminar to DGE & the Dept. of Plant Biology. His topic was Using native habitats to understand gene function. One illustration was how a native plant has evolved a strategy for dealing with a particular herbivore (caterpillar) by sending out chemical attractants to carnivorous insects which
may kill the herbivore. In another example, his laboratory has shown that the saliva from a herbivore that is denuding a plant's leaves causes
the plant to send fixed carbon to its roots. Then during the proper
season, the plant can used that stored energy to flower even though
its leaves are gone. Members of Ian's lab. group are tracking down the various chemical attractants to the genetic level. His thesis that
studying plants in their native habitat (a Utah desert) can be very rewarding was convincing.
This work harkens back to the early days of Carnegie's Dept. of Plant Biology at Stanford, which had established Field Stations at Mather (5000 ft elevation) and Timberline (10,000 ft) in the Sierra Nevada
Mts. The influence of these three very different environments on
one plant Genus (Mimulus) was compared at the genetic level.
Jan. 30: Prof. Matthew Posewitz, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, & Research Scientist at the National Renewable Energy Lab., CO spoke on Anoxia, hydrogenase activity, and renewable energy prospects in phototrophic microorganisms. The ability of microalgae and bacteria to make hydrogen and organic fuels has long stimulated scientists to
look at them as the Holy Grail for energy production. This has led to mutational studies to make existing microorganism more efficient
fuel producers and also to searches in harsh environments for more species with an unusual metabolism. However, these very metabolic characteristics also cause serious difficulties when trying to scale up cultures for mass production of renewable energy.
From left to right: Kim Cahill
Chris Field
Luis Fernandez
Claire Lunch
taste fungi.
Faculty/Staff Activities
Chris Field is teaching a Stanford Biology Course titled Climate Change: Drives, Impacts, Solutions during the current Winter Quarter.
The weekly Stanford Report released Jan. 9 contains an article about Chris' attending the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and banquet on
Dec. 10 in Oslo, Norway. Dr. Field emphasized that he was selected
by lottery to represent thousands of dedicated people, each of whom was critical to the success of the IPCC. Although we all know how hard
he has worked for the IPCC for many years, Chris is so modest that he didn't tell your Editor of this honor at the time.
Jan. 7: Ken Caldeira gave a talk at Google on geoengineering that
was posted on YouTube.<http://www.youtube.com>
Jan. 9: Ken Caldeira
spoke on Ocean Acidification &
Geoengineering: A pair of short talks,
as a part of the Energy
Seminar Series at Stanford. His lecture was sponsored by the Woods Institute for the Environment. In a recent article in Science Magazine (1-11-08), Ken emphasized that " We are convinced that, as yet, there is no scientific basis for issuing such carbon credits for OIF [Ocean Iron Fertilization]."
Ken also welcomed Senior Student, Brian Alano from Purdue Univ.,
to work for a week on a paper they are writing about the Relationship between surface albedo and outgoing short wavelength radiation
from the Earth.
Jan. 18: Ken Caldeira went to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve near
Half Moon Bay, CA to be filmed as part of a documentary on ocean acidification. This location gave a chance to point out some organisms such as sea urchins, coraline algae, limpets, mussels, etc. that might
be negatively impacted.
Jan. 20-24: Cristina Archer attended the 88th Annual Meeting of
the American Meteorological Society in New Orleans. She presented a paper, co-authored with Caldeira, on trends of intensity, latitude, and altitude of the jet streams in the last decades.
Jan. 23: Chris Field
gave a public talk at Stanford titled IPCC,
Kyoto and Next Steps to Meet the Challenge of Climate Change.

Jan. 27-30: Noel Gurwick attended a NSF Riparian
Zone Workshop: "Generalizing Riparian Zone Function at the Landscape Scale:  New Tools, New Approaches, Gaps in Knowledge and Future Research Directions" held in Indianapolis.
Claudia Tebaldi is visiting DGE again. She has just started as a research scientist for Climate Central, an emergent non-profit organization based in Princeton, NJ, whose mission is the communication of science findings and solutions regarding climate change. Climate Central is going to open an office in Palo Alto but meanwhile Claudia is enjoying the collaborative atmosphere of DGE. She plans to continue working with David Lobell (see below) and become involved in new projects at DGE.
Ulli Seibt will also be visiting us until April when she plans to start working on her European Research Council (Starting Independent Investigator) grant in a lab just outside Paris. In the meantime, she will be collaborating with Joe Berry on modeling (e.g. carbonyl sulfide). Congratulations to Ulli for receiving one these prestigious ERC grants.
Jan. 24: David Lobell, Senior Research Scholar, Program on Food Security in Environment, Stanford Woods Institute spoke about Agriculture in a New Era: Three changes in the global food economy and the opportunities for science. His lecture was held in the new Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment and Energy Building (known on campus as the Y2E2 Building.
Archives and PDF Archives of past Newsletters,
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Editor Jan Brown, e-mail: jbrown1@stanford.edu