Mark Jordan has recently taken up a new position as Program Director for the Genomics and Biotechnology national program of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). The position is mostly administrative and involves assisting in the coordination of biotechnology research within AAFC and throughout the government of Canada. In addition to these new responsibilities he still has his old job as a research scientist. Two jobs… no problem (we will see in a few months)! Sympathy cards etc can be sent to the same address/email as before.

Mary Ann Lila attended the 1st International Greek Biotechnology Forum in Athens in June. Presentations were mostly in Greek with simultaneous translation. She also completed a third trip to Uzbekistan where a wide range of botanicals were collected for screening by USA industry partners as part of the Rutgers-led ICBG (International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups) program funded by NIH.

Dr. Lila is currently hosting 2 Mexican students under a US AID TIES program, both with a focus on antioxidants. One student is comparing antioxidant content of berries from Mexico versus the Pacific NW, and the other with focus on black bean antioxidants.

A large number of layoffs (over 20) were recently reported at Syngenta’s Research Triangle Park facility. These reductions in staff are a result of the merger of Novartis and AstraZeneca’s Ag. Divisions. Syngenta, the only big firm still working on genetically modified agriculture in the UK, also recently announced that it was moving all its operations to the United States. The Anglo-Swiss Company will stop all GM research at its site in Berkshire and move it to North Carolina, with a loss of 130 jobs.

Erica Benson, Reader at the University of Abertay Dundee, is currently at home on medical leave due to cardiac arrhythmias. Her students and research associates are carrying on with the many projects in progress on antioxidants, conservation of plant diversity, and algal preservation. You can email some Get Well wishes at: damar@tinyworld.co.uk.

Ms. Esther Uchendu of the Tissue Culture Laboratory, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria will pursue a Ph.D. degree in Horticulture from the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University as an International Ford Fellowship Scholar. She will work on projects related to cryopreservation of plant germplasm in the laboratory of Barbara Reed at the National Clonal Germplasm Repository, Corvallis, OR. Esther was the 2003 winner of the SIVB Phillip White Award.

The Plant Biotechnology Section’s Bylaws were unanimously approved by the Board on July 6, 2004. These modified bylaws broaden the scientific areas our section encompasses. “Plant biotechnology includes all forms of plant tissue culture, biochemistry, and molecular biology, and genomic methodologies applied to the plant sciences, including the study of whole plants derived from plant tissue culture and/or molecular techniques.”

The Plant Biotechnology Section social this year featured music by Greg Phillips (Arkansas State), Jerry Ranch (Pioneer Hybrid) and Wayne Curtis (Penn State). Maybe we need some volunteers for next year. “They” say most scientists are good musicians, although we could prove “them” wrong! Perhaps a jam session next year could determine if that saying is true?

A large group including these intrepid SIVB members enjoyed the social! After the social a large group wandered around the hotel region looking for a quiet bar to invade, only to find that the bars all close at 10 PM. So the lobby bar at the hotel was the only recourse!

In April, the Plant Research Division of the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for $75,000 to collaborate with the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC) to address reproductive and conservation problems of 40 highly endangered plant species held in the CPC’s National Collection of Endangered plants.

The primary focus of this work is to use in vitro methods to propagate and preserve endangered plant material from the United States. CREW collaborates with 13 other botanical gardens within the CPC network from across the continental United States. Collaborators at those gardens provide material directly or help accessing seeds or tissues with which to initiate cultures. In some cases, in vitro collecting (IVC) is used to collect tissues from wild plants. Cultures are initiated, shoots are propagated, rooted, and plants are acclimated to soil. Plants are returned to collaborators and other researchers for research, education and reintroduction projects. The tissue lines are cryopreserved and stored in liquid nitrogen in CREW’s “Frozen Garden.”

This grant provides funding for two years to help continue this work within the Endangered Plant Propagation Program at CREW.