Susan Bush, Ph.D. and assistant professor in biology at Trinity College, will present "Stress! Plants Have It Too." This talk will assess aluminum tolerance in plants: learning how tomatoes tolerate stressful soil.
The Bush lab studies the way in which plants respond to environmental stresses. Stresses like drought, heat or toxic minerals like aluminum in the soil can make it difficult for a plant to grow, and-- unlike animals --a plant must survive and reproduce in the same location it was originally planted. Crop plants, like tomatoes, have been domesticated to carry genes that are important for farming and high yield, but the plants may not carry the gene variants that can help them survive under environmental stresses. Wild South American relatives of the tomato and colorful heirloom varieties of domesticated tomatoes harbor naturally occurring genetic diversity, which can make them more tolerant of stressful conditions.
In the Bush lab, we study the physiology, or the growth traits, of plants under normal conditions compared to their growth in the presence of the toxic element aluminum. We also examine how differences in plant physiology are underlain by genetic variation. Students can examine growth of tomato plants and the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, the effect of stress hormones and the degree to which aluminum stress impacts different plants. We also study the genes involved in aluminum tolerance, using mutants and different species or varieties of tomato.