Senior Professor at University of Wollongong
To celebrate Melinda getting her PhD we took a weekend break in the Atacama Desert. We are very used to cold deserts but this was a whole other experience. Really dry, salty and hot and very high altitude so burning UV radiation. So can plants survive there? Of course they are so tough. Some parts were so dry we didn't see much vegetation but wherever there was a bit of water we saw plants.
Sharon and Mel joined Gustavo and his wife on Saturday 7th November for a road trip heading east from Santiago - the Andes. We first practised our metro and navigation skills to meet our lovely hosts at Estacion Los Dominicos. We drove from here along the Rio Maipo into the Andes on a road called Camino al volcan (road to the volcano).
Last week Melinda got the Examination reports for her PhD. With a lot of quick action on the part of the Graduate School, Mel was able to respond to the comments in record time. On Thursday she was able to submit her corrected thesis and that meant that on Friday she officially received notification that she has met all the requirements for her PhD and she will be able to graduate at the next ceremony in April. So a big congratulations to Dr Melinda Waterman on this achievement and also a big thank you to everyone in Graduate School at UOW for making it happen so fast. The reason there was a rush is that Mel had to be awarded her PhD in order to start her Endeavour Fellowship in Santiago, Chile.
Melinda and Sharon have a new paper published with colleagues at the University of Adelaide. We helped Robert Cirocco, a PhD student from Adelaide, to extract photosynthetic pigments from an Australian native Hemiparasite Cassytha pubescensand its host plant Leptospermum myrsinoides. A hemiparasite plant is one which takes water and minerals from its host by taping into the xylem vessels that conduct water. It is not a full parasite because it is able to photosynthesise and make its own sugars.
On November 4th, Melinda and Sharon flew to Chile to work with colleagues at the Universidad de Santiago de Chile (USACH). We are being hosted by Dr Dr. Gustavo E. Zúñiga, Dean of the Faculty. Melinda will be working in the Laboratorio de Fisiología y Biotecnología Vegetal (Plant Physiology and Biotechnology Lab) until February. We worked with Gustavo, Marisol, Tavo and Hans from this group last year in Antarctica. They have been looking after the samples of moss we collected there and Melinda will be extracting compounds from them while she is here.
Last week Melinda Waterman and Johanna Turnbull both gave their final PhD seminars. Years of work on Antarctic mosses condensed into an hour. Now that their theses are submitted they have completed all the requirements for their PhDs and are both just waiting for the examiners comments to come back. November is also when we hold the postgraduate retreat and all the PhD students give their annual seminars, so Rhys Wyber also had to give one. Last year he won the prize for best introductory seminar and this year he was runner up, so he is keeping up the lab tradition of excellent seminars. Well done Rhys, Melinda and Johanna.
This week Kris French and I visited the Burnley Campus at the University of Melbourne to talk to Rebecca Miller, Claire Fuller and Nick Williams about their Green Infrastructure research and to give seminars about our own research. Burnley has a prize winning roof garden (shown here) which incoroporates different substrates (soil substitutes) at different depths.
While I was at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Birmingham last year I met Juliet Coastes and Dan Gibbs who also work on mosses. Juliet and I have written a short article on why mosses are so cool which you can read on Ian Street's the Quiet Branches blog.
Hope you learn something new about marvelous moss.
Just back from a visit to Perth, Western Australia for the United Nations Environment Programme Environmental Effects Assessment Panel (UNEP-EEAP). While we were there someone asked if the ozone hole was still there. The answer is very much so. It is predicted to recover by about 2060, but here is what it looked like last week and you can see all of Antarctica beneath it. So as we think about the Paris meeting and what we should do with greenhouse gases it is a useful reminder that we can act together and change things. In the 1980s we regulated CFC and other Ozone Depleting Substances. BUT once you mess with Earth's climate it takes a while to fix. So we need to get on with it.
You might think moss was just something we walk on but think again. Recent graduate Dr Jessica Bramley-Alves has written an article for the public about how we can use mosses to tell us how climates are changing in Antarctica. You can read the article here
We will have more articles for the public coming out this month so watch this space!