Friday, May 3, 2013

Honors Project

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World  
by Michael Pollan


As humans, we are thinking that it’s up to us control nature and happily to use plants and animals to improve our life. However, if we look at it from another point of view, we’ll find some interesting facts. Some plants trick us to take care of them and help them to survive without us knowing it. The book is about four different families of plants that match specific basic human desires: sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control.

The First chapter is about the human desire for sweetness and it talks about the apple fruit specifically. It describes the origin and history of the apple tree the importance of the Johnny Apple seed (John Chapman). The seed was grown and distributed by him in the United State in the early 19th century the apple tree passes its genetic information through its seeds and it is possible to grow trees with different fruit flavors and appearance. Since 1900 apples have become more popular and people have chosen to grow apple trees with sweeter fruit. The human desire for sweetness selected the tree types that become more popular and therefore more likely to be distributed around a world.

The second chapter of this book is about breeding and plant flowering plants, which meets human beauty desire. The plant that is chosen for this chapter is tulip, which is originally from Central Asia. This chapter contains an interesting historical story about how a beautiful useless plant distributed all around the world. Approximately more than some 19 million flowers change hands each day just in the Aalsmeer Flower Market, Netherland.

Intoxication desire is the third chapter of the book and Marijuana is the plant that is chosen for this chapter. Marijuana was dispersed around the world, mainly in India and China due to ability of gratifying human consciousness. Marijuana had used as a medicine and pain relief for labor pains, asthma and rheumatism in 19th century but usage of it had been changed and people started to used eventually it as a drug and it became illegal in most countries around world. It’s interesting how people risk their life and their freedom to grow more of Marijuana.

The roots of the potato plant began in Peru. In the 16th century, when Spaniards occupied Peru, they took the potato to Europe. Later on, Irish community grew one single type of potato, the Lumper. The Lumper potato, with their genetic uniformity, soon turned vulnerable to biological pests. It was explained in this chapter how the New Leaf potato was genetically modified. This genetically modification helped killing pests with fewer toxins. However, genetically modified food raised a public concern for the possible effects that it can cause. For that reason, it was removed from the market.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Tiny Guests

In the last couple weeks my Biology laboratory was about Eutrophication. We did an experiment to see the effects of nutrient enrichment on algae growth in the Rio Salado River and Encanto Park Lake water systems were examined in this experiment. Different concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus individually and nitrogen and phosphorus together were added to the Rio Salado River and to Encanto Park Lake water. In order to facilitate the growth of algae, samples were kept in the incubator for two weeks. Then, the growth in each sample was measured by using the Algal Growth Comparator. Additions of nitrogen in various concentrations had a moderate effect on algal growth in the Rio Salado River water and in Encanto Park Lake water. Algal growth was significantly raised when the concentration of phosphorus was increased in both water systems. The results of testing the effects of added nitrogen and phosphorus indicates that an increased concentration of nutrients increases algal growth.
Last week, when I was checking my test tubes to measure the amount of algae growth I saw that I have some tiny guests in two of my test tubes. It was very interesting to see some small creatures swim in my test tubes. I asked Mr.Schampel and Matt to keep my test tubes because I really wanted to know what they are and how they appear in my test tubes. The first thing that I mention was my little creatures appeared in just two test tubes of my 18 test tubes. One of them contains 1mL of phosphorus and other one has 100 µ L of a combined Nitrogen and phosphorus. These two test tubes have a high amount of algae growth because of high quantity of Nitrogen and phosphorus that was added to them. On Friday, I place a drop of water which contains one of the creatures into the Concave microscope slides to identify it under a microscope. I looked for it around 45 minutes to be able to take a picture of it.  

I was able to identify the order of my little creatures, Cladocera. According to the Wikipedia, Cladocera is an order of small crustaceans commonly called water fleas. Around 620 species have been recognised so far, with many more undescribed. They are ubiquitous in inland aquatic habitats, but rare in the oceans. Most are 0.2–6.0 mm (0.0079–0.24 in) long, with a down-turned head, and a carapace covering the apparently unsegmented thorax and abdomen. There is a single median compound eye. Most species show cyclical parthenogenesis, where asexual reproduction is occasionally supplemented by sexual reproduction, which produces resting eggs that allow the species to survive harsh conditions and disperse to distant habitats. I couldn’t recognize family and Genus of them because I took a picture of it from top. Mr.Schampel told me that I should take a picture from sideways to be able to identify it because different species of this order has a different hand position.
While I was looking for Cladocera under a microscope, I discovered lots of interesting creatures inside of just a drop of water. I found out different types of Algae and other living creatures.    

Several type of Algae

Two different kind of living creatures

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Agrobacterium is a common soil bacterium that causes crown gall disease in many plants, including grapes, rice, and sugar beets. Agrobacterium is a major agricultural problem worldwide (Aldridge, 2012). Agrobacterium has the ability to introduce new genetic material into the plant cell. The reason of using agrobacterium for plant transformation is the natural ability of it to modify a plant’s genetic makeup (de la Riva et al., 1998). Agrobacterium is one of the most important bacteria used in plant genetic engineering (Zia et al., 2010).The plant genetic transformation offers a significant tool in breeding programs by allowing the direct introduction of agronomically useful gene(s) into important crops. Traditional crop breeding, which was limited by the availability of germplasm to generate genetic diversity, was improved with the use of the plant genetic transformation (Paz et al., 2004). A number of current scientific articles involving the infection of germinated seeds with agrobacterium were taken into account prior to the experiment. The information gleaned informed the methods used in this experiment. Several methods were used to infect germinated seeds in the various articles, but the most effective methods involved cutting the plant stem and introducing agrobacterium to the site, injecting Agrobacterium directly into the stem of plant, and mixing agrobacterium with a soil around stem (Chee et al., 1989).  
Research Question: Is it possible to successfully infect soybean plants with agrobacterium?
Hypothesis: Soybean plants will show evidence of agrobacterium infection through the presentation of tumors following agrobacterium injection, agrobacterium introduction through a cut stem, or mixing agrobacterium into the plant soil.

Aldridge, S. (2012). Agrobacterium. In B. W. Lerner & K. L. Lerner (Eds.), In Context Series. Biotechnology: In Context (Vol. 1, pp. 9-11). Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from
Chee, P. P., Fober, K. A., & Slightom, J. L. (1989). Transformation of Soybean (Glycine max) by Infecting Germinating Seeds with Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Planet Physiol, 1212-1218.
de la Riva, G. A., González-Cabrera, J., Vázquez-Padrón, R., & Ayra-Pardo, C. (1998). Agrobacterium tumefaciens: a natural tool for plant transformation. Electronic Journal of Biotechnology, 1(3). vol1-issue3-fulltext-1
Liu, H.-K., Yang, C., & Wei, Z.-M. (2004). Efficient Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transformation of soybeans using an embryonic tip regeneration system. Planta, 219(6), 1042-1049.
Paz, M., Martinez, J. C., Kalvig, A., & Fonger, K. (2006, January 6). Agrobacteruim-mediated
Transformation of Soybeans and Recovery of transgenic Soybeans Plants.
Zia, M., Rizvi, Z. F., Rehman, R. U., & Chaudhary, M. F. (2010). Agrobacterium Mediated Transformation of Soybean (Glycine Max L): Some Conditions Standardization.Retrieved from Quaid-i-Azam University.