Judges’ Queries and Presenter’s Replies

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Presentation Discussion

  • Icon for: Lucas Arzola

    Lucas Arzola

    May 22, 2012 | 03:56 p.m.

    Very nice video, Geoff! Great job using visuals to tell your story and to show how the results from your research look.

  • Icon for: Geoffrey Benn

    Geoffrey Benn

    May 23, 2012 | 01:23 p.m.

    Thanks Lucas!

  • May 22, 2012 | 06:20 p.m.

    Great job Geoff. Your research has great potential for agriculture, biofuels and plant based pharmaceuticals.

  • Icon for: Geoffrey Benn

    Geoffrey Benn

    May 23, 2012 | 01:25 p.m.

    Thanks Judy! I agree – manipulating the stress response could improve yield of both crops, which are exposed to many stresses, and for pharmaceutical production, where the responses could be eliminated or turned down, due to the sterile nature of the production environment.

  • May 24, 2012 | 12:28 a.m.

    I really like your video and the unusual (yet effective!) organization of your poster. I am really interested in your definition of stress, and use of mechanical wounding to investigate stress response. How does the type of stress effect the response over the long-term? Also, do you see rapid stress response as being more or less important in relation to the many global issues that you mention in your intro? Thanks for sharing!

  • Icon for: Geoffrey Benn

    Geoffrey Benn

    May 24, 2012 | 12:08 p.m.

    Thanks Julia! The type of stress has a huge effect on the long-term response. For example cold-stressed plants accumulate proline for freezing protection, plants being eaten by herbivores produce toxic metabolites like glucosinolates, and heat stressed plants close stomata and wilt to limit gas exchange and reduce surface area.
    In terms of the importance of the more general rapid stress response vs the more specific long-term response, I would say it depends on the situation. If a crop is consistently limited by a single stress (i.e drought for Somali farmers), then engineering responses for that specific stress would be the better route. However, most crops are exposed to a range of stresses in an unpredictable fashion over the growing season. Modifying the general response may be a way to bring a level of resistance to all of these stresses. This approach would be much cheaper and simpler than attempting to incorporate specific resistance traits for all of the various stresses a plant might encounter.

  • Icon for: Tiffany Glavan

    Tiffany Glavan

    May 24, 2012 | 02:37 p.m.

    Nice job Geoff!

  • Icon for: Geoffrey Benn

    Geoffrey Benn

    May 24, 2012 | 07:36 p.m.

    Thanks Tiffany!

  • Icon for: Steve Zicari

    Steve Zicari

    May 25, 2012 | 01:46 a.m.

    Great job Geoff. Your video is top notch and the poster is clear and accessible to all audiences. On the humorous side, I’m picturing a cartoon with a plant on a couch with you; your name tag reads “Geoff Benn, Plant Psychologist”. Plant: “Doc, I’m under all kinds of stress!”. You: “Relax, I can help.”

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    Ken Noto

    May 28, 2012 | 08:42 p.m.

    Very interesting Mr. Benn. Plant Science has certainly come a long way since I received my Botany BS Degree back in 1980. To be able to do the type of research, with the intricate manipulations with genes and recombinant luciferase, is work we dreamed about back then; now it’s so common you don’t even mention the use of it in your video.

    I can see your research helping in many ways, especially with global warming coming upon our planet. Our world’s oceans will be rising, major ocean currents will be altered, which in turn will result in climate changes worldwide. Earth’s Biosphere will be subject to various stressors never seen in our lifetimes; in my opinion – it’s already begun.

    I envision your research leading to the development of new crops, genetically engineered to respond to these new “global warming” stress factors. Factors such has higher average temperatures, lower/higher rainfall rates (depending on locale), and higher mineral content in soils and water. I only hope we can develop new crops before it’s too late.

    One last note – there’s one other stressor I did not see mentioned. Some plants respond to “Touch”. I’m sure that you have heard of Mimosa Pudica, the “Sensitive Plant” – it responds to any sort of touch stimuli by folding up its leaves and then drooping downwards. Fascinating plant, that one.

  • Further posting is closed as the competition has ended.

Icon for: Geoffrey Benn


University of California at Davis
Years in Grad School: 3

Intelligence gathering in the plant kingdom: How Plants Perceive and Integrate Noisy Environmental Signals into a Coherent Stress Response

In both natural and agricultural ecosystems plants are subjected to wide array of stresses. While the long term effects of these stresses are very different, the short term effects are generally characterized by localized changes in the plasma membrane and disruption of normal cellular functions. In order to determine if plants are able to perceive local cellular changes as early stress signals, our lab initiated a series of experiments using mechanical wounding of the model plant Arabidopsis. Our lab first identified genes that were induced five minutes after wounding and then analyzed the promoters (upstream regulatory region) of those genes. The promoter analysis identified a novel regulatory element, subsequently named the Rapid Stress Response Element (RSRE). Further experiments demonstrated that the RSRE is sufficient to confer a rapid responsive to a variety of stresses, indicating its key role in the plant early stress response system. My research goal is to identify the signals and molecular machinery involved in activating the RSRE following stress. Using pharmacological and genetic approaches, I have determined that calcium and reactive oxygen species (ROS) are key signals in the activation of the RSRE. These findings, coupled with my remaining work, will provide targets for the engineering of plants resistant to diverse stresses. The development of such plants will help ensure food security by enabling increased production on existing farmland, thereby meeting the needs of a growing population while protecting natural habitat.