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Inside Iowa State
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August 29, 2003


Tree watch
James Raich, associate professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology, and Ann Russell, affiliated assistant professor of natural resource ecology and management, are part of a team searching for a way to restore forest systems to help slow global warming.

Part of the team's research is taking place in Costa Rica lowlands, where trees grow quickly in the tropical and humid climate. Trees that would take 60 years in Iowa to grow two feet in diameter, will only take 14 years there.

The research team will investigate the extent to which individual tree species differ and how they influence the carbon cycle and nutrients in reforested land. Raich and Russell think that increased plant uptake of carbon dioxide (which helps plants grow faster) could help offset the excess carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuel burning and may improve conditions that would otherwise lead to global warming.

Healthy plants
Thomas Baum, associate professor of plant pathology, is part of a multi-university team that recently has made breakthroughs that mark the starting point for understanding the biology of the most serious soybean parasites.

The research team discovered a comprehensive spectrum of parasitism genes in root-knot and cyst nematodes. The parasitism genes enable nematodes to secrete into soybean roots parasitism proteins, which are necessary for disease to progress. Both advances recently were published in the journal Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions.

Findings by Baum and his colleagues may help researchers devise strategies to make host plants, like soybeans, resistant to nematode attack and damage.

Marital conflict
Assistant professor David Vogel is leading a team of psychology department researchers in a study of the physiological effects of marital conflict.

Physiological reactions vary based on sex. Vogel said women's heart rates don't fluctuate as much as men's during heated discussions between spouses. Men become more emotionally aroused during these discussions.

Much of the study is based on the assumption that a pattern often develops, with one partner asking for changes and the other avoiding the issues altogether. Vogel hopes the study's results could lead to better marriage counseling and possibly help reduce spousal abuse.

Unintentional results
Patrick Schnable, professor of agronomy, has developed a new technique for assessing genes in plants. LaserCapture Microdissection can identify and retrieve individual cells from specific tissues. These cells can be used for RNA, DNA and protein research.

Although it was not Schnable's intent, his findings could allow researchers to force the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) protein (used in some genetically modified corn) to be expressed in corn stalks, not the seed. If Bt is not expressed in the seed, it may meet all USDA safety regulations. Schnable's research also may help seed scientists develop new ways to make plants sterile, thus, reducing the need for detasseling in the production of hybrid seed. His research was published in the March issue of The Plant Cell.

Schnable is director of the Center for Plant Genomics and the Center for Plant Transformation and Gene Expression, two centers in the Plant Sciences Institute.

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