11th Annual Plant Sciences Symposium

The UW-Madison Plant Sciences Graduate Student Council hosted the 11th Annual Plant Sciences Symposium Symposium titled Planting Connections on Friday, November 12, 2021. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this was a hybrid event and the second year we offered a virtual attendance option! The symposium featured talks from six accomplished and dynamic scientists, as well as graduate student lightning talks and a poster session. You can find the full symposium program text here.

This year’s invited speakers include:

Dr. Miguel Altieri
University of California-Berkeley
“Agroecology: Feeding a planet in crisis”

Miguel Altieri received his BS at the University of Chile studying Agronomy, his MS on Agricultural Sciences at the National University of Colombia, and a PhD in Entomology at the University of Florida. In 1981 he became Professor of Agroecology at the University of California-Berkeley in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, and after 37 years of service he now serves as Professor Emeritus. He conducted most of his research in California and Latin America working closely with farmers on implementing principles of agroecology to design productive, biodiverse and resilient farming systems, and served as a guest professor at numerous Universities in Latin America, Spain and Italy throughout his career. Miguel also served in many notable leadership roles, including as a Scientific Advisor to the Latin American Consortium on Agroecology and Development (CLADES) in Chile, as the General Coordinator for the United Nations Development Programme’s Sustainable Agriculture Networking and Extension Programme, as the chairman of the NGO committee of the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research, as the Director of the US-Brasil Consortium on Agroecology and Sustainable Rural Development (CASRD), as a scientific advisor to the Food and Agriculture Organization Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS), and as the President of the Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology. He has been awarded an Honorary PhD 1996 from Universidad Nacional de Cajamarca-Peru (2006), a Doctor Honoris Causa at Universite Catholique du Lovain-Belgium (2015), as an Honorary Professor of University of La Frontera-Chile (2017), as an inductee into the Earth Hall of Fame by the Kyoto Prefecture in Japan (2018), and the Diploma de Reconocimiento “Naturaleza, Territorio y Sociedad” from the Universidad de Guadalajara-Mexico (2018). He has also written more than 250 scientific articles and more than 40 books, among them Agroecology: The Science of Sustainable Agriculture, Biodiversity and Pest Management in Agroecosystems, and Agroecology: Science and Politics. Miguel is currently Co-Director of the Centro LatinoAmericano de Investigacionbes Agroecologicas (CELIA) and a part time farmer in the Andean mountains of Antioquia, Colombia.

Dr. Becky Barak
Chicago Botanic Garden, Northwestern University
“Lawn alternatives for habitat, infrastructure, and climate change resilience”

Becky Barak is a Conservation Scientist at Chicago Botanic Garden and Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University in the Program in Plant Biology and Conservation. Becky received her BA degree from Princeton University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and her MS and PhD from Northwestern University and Chicago Botanic Garden. Becky studies seed biology and biodiversity in restored tallgrass prairies, and decision-making for restoration, particularly for seed mix design. Becky is a co-founder and project lead of Plant Love Stories, a project that aims to collect and share stories about the plants that impact our lives.

Dr. Anny Chung
University of Georgia
“Plant-soil feedbacks and the ecology of plant-microbe interactions”

Anny Chung is a Haines Family Assistant Professor of Plant Ecology and Plant Biology at University of Georgia. She received her AB in Biology and International Studies from Washington University in St. Louis and PhD in Biology from University of New Mexico. She was a postdoctoral researcher at Utah State University before joining the faculty at University of Georgia in 2019. Anny currently holds appointments with the Department of Plant Biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Plant Pathology in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Research in her lab spans a broad range of topics from microbial community assembly, plant-soil feedbacks, competition and coexistence, range edge dynamics, to the effects of climate change on soil fungal communities.

Tradd Cotter
Mushroom Mountain
“Mushrooms, molds, and mycorrhizae: The amazing applications of fungi in agriculture”

Tradd Cotter is a microbiologist, professional mycologist, and organic gardener, who has been tissue culturing, collecting native fungi in the Southeast, and cultivating both commercially and experimentally for more than 22 years. In 1996 he founded Mushroom Mountain to explore applications for mushrooms in various industries, and he currently maintains over 300 species of fungi for food production, mycoremediation of environmental pollutants, and natural alternatives to chemical pesticides. His primary interest is in low-tech and no-tech cultivation strategies so that anyone can grow mushrooms on just about anything, anywhere in the world; current research includes bacterial interactions with fungi and novel antibiotic discovery. Tradd has won numerous awards for his work including the prestigious Clemson University Entrepreneur of the Year Award (2013), the EPA GRO-U Fellowship Award (2011), and an expert lecturer on all topics related to fungi in agriculture and medicine, as well as published the best-selling book Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation (2014).

Dr. Leslie Holland
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Endophytes and pathogens: Exploring cranberry fruit rot disease dynamics

Leslie Holland is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in the department of Plant Pathology at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research centers on the diagnosis, epidemiology, and management of diseases in fruit crops, with a specialization in fungal diseases. Her current research includes fungal disease complex etiology, the re-emergence of a phytoplasma disease in cranberry, and optimization of fungicide programing for disease resistant hybrid grapes. Her extension program translates these research findings into practical solutions to improve the productivity and sustainability of fruit crop production. During her graduate research, she studied fungi associated with canker diseases of perennial fruit crops, and received her PhD and MS in Plant Pathology from University of California-Davis and Washington State University, respectively.

With special industry guest speaker:

Dr. Laura Wayne
Corteva Agriscience
“Improving nutrition and health through enhancing seed composition”

Laura Wayne is the Oils Discovery Leader at Corteva Agriscience in Johnston, Iowa. She leads a small group within Research and Development Trait Discovery, researching ways to increase oil and improve overall seed composition for oilseed crops. ​She has also worked with the crop protection discovery group for determining new modes of action for novel herbicides. Laura’s passion is for understanding how plants work down to the molecular level: “By understanding the underlying mechanisms of plant biology, we can use this knowledge to develop useful products from plants, providing food, fiber, and sustainable feedstocks for our growing population.” Laura received her Ph.D. in Molecular Plant Science from Washington State University and a B.S. with Honors in Biotechnology from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Laura currently serves on the Centennial Challenge Committee for the American Society of Plant Biologists and is a mentor with Plantae.

And our student light talk competitors:

Tabitha Faber, Botany
“Foods, medicines, or poisons? Understanding ‘edibility’ of apazote (Dysphania ambrosiodies) in Guatemala”

Lillian Hislop, Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics
“Genetic association study of kernel carbohydrates in the Wisconsin sweet corn diversity panel”

Derek Ho, Biological Systems Engineering
“Microplastics in our farmlands”

Guolong Liang, Horticulture
“Irrigation and nitrogen management of dark red kidney beans grown in the Upper Midwest”

Jenyne Loarca, Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics
“Why genetic diversity matters: A study of 700 carrot tops”

Shruthi Magesh, Microbiology
“Genetic determinants of surface colonization by the rhizosphere bacterium (Flavobacterium johnsoniae)

Tym Sokolskyi, Botany
“Evolution of vaults: Enigmatic ribonucleoprotein organelles”

Owen Washam, Plant Pathology
“Organic celery: Here’s the juice”

Funding was graciously provided by Corteva Agriscience, HM.CLAUSE, J.R. Simplot, Syngenta, Rijk Zwaan, and the Wisconsin Agricultural and Life Sciences Alumni Association. We would also like to acknowledge the support of the faculty in our various departments. Lastly, we would like to extend our gratitude to Sarah Friedrich for her excellent work designing the symposium materials.