Where the Weeds Are: Plant Biodiversity in Rutgers Parking Lots

Rutgers undergraduate Alisa Sharma and doctoral student Lauren Frazee examine weeds in a parking lot on the George H. Cook Campus.

Rutgers undergraduate Alisa Sharma and doctoral student Lauren Frazee examine weeds in a parking lot on the George H. Cook Campus.

The idea of investigating weeds in a parking lot may not look very exciting, but to a botanist –and especially to an urban ecologist interested in plants and biodiversity – this car-filled area represents an extreme, urban treasure trove of thriving and flowering plants. These are mostly the same species as those pesky weeds that spring up in the cracks of our driveways at home that we can’t wait to remove with the latest weed killer. Yes, those very weeds. Hundreds of species bear seeds, produce flowers and propagate in parking lots all over the country, but not much is known about their survival and persistence.

In the spring of 2014, Lauren Frazee, Ph.D. student in the graduate program of Ecology and Evolution, found herself taking on a project investigating the biodiversity of weeds in Rutgers parking lots that was launched in 2012 by Lena Struwe, associate professor in the departments of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources as well as Plant Biology and Pathology, and her other graduate student, Jennifer Blake-Mahmud. A global botanist, Struwe is one of two co-advisors to Frazee in her doctoral program, along with Steven Handel, professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources.

Frazee’s interest is in urban plants and how urbanization affects plant life. “Parking lots are fascinating, since they can serve as a proxy for answering many questions about extremely disturbed urban ecosystems.” [Read more...]

NJ torrential rainfall: telltale images

Did you encounter dangerous floodwaters last week? The torrential rains that led to flash flooding on Aug. 12-13 were quite rare in some areas of New Jersey and New York, according to experts…In New Jersey, the 8.94 inches of rain that fell at the Millville airport in Cumberland County represents a one-in-100-year event, according to a report by David A. Robinson, the New Jersey state climatologist at Rutgers University. A 100-year storm has a 1 percent chance of happening each year.

Read the entire article at APP.com »

How the Game of Golf Adapts to Global Warming

Want to see the future of turf grass? It’s growing at Rutgers University in a "library" of grasses on thousands of 4-foot by 6-foot research plots – 12,000 plots exclusively for bent grasses destined for golf courses…"We have by far the largest reserve of genes of cool-season grasses anywhere in the world," said William Meyer, director of Rutgers’ turf grass breeding program. "Our whole breeding objective is to develop turf grasses that require lower inputs – of energy, fertilizer, fungicide, and insecticide. We’re working on all angles."

Read the entire article at ScientificAmerican.com »

Alumni Story: Phillip Alampi, ‘Mr. Garden State’

Secretary of Agriculture Phillip Alampi with bees on his farm in Pennington, New Jersey. Date: 1966. Source: Department of Agriculture Photograph collection, NJ State Archives

Secretary of Agriculture Phillip Alampi with bees on his farm in Pennington, New Jersey. Date: 1966. Source: Department of Agriculture Photograph collection, NJ State Archives

Editor’s Note: One of the most prestigious honors conferred on alumni of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is induction into the Hall of Distinguished Alumni (HDA). The School of Environmental and Biological Sciences is proud of its 16 HDA honorees. This is one of a series of stories about them.

A first-generation American, Phillip Alampi was born in Philadelphia and grew up on a small farm in Williamstown, N.J., in Gloucester County. He graduated from Glassboro High School, where he was active in Future Farmers of America and 4-H. After graduating from Rutgers in 1934, he taught high school vocational education in Salem County for 10 years, and in 1945, he earned a master’s degree in Agricultural Education from Rutgers.

The following year, he became a farm broadcaster, and for the next decade he hosted popular radio and television shows, many of which were co-hosted and produced by his wife Ruth. His agricultural morning program was based in New York City at WJZ (now WABC) and then at WNBC and WNBC-TV. The programs made him a spokesman for the farming industry. [Read more...]

Cinnamon May Fight E. Coli Outbreaks

For centuries, cinnamon has been used to enhance the flavor of foods, but new research shows that the spice could also help make foods safer. According to a study by Meijun Zhu and Lina Sheng, food safety scientists at Washington State Univ. in Pullman, the ancient cooking spice could help prevent some of the most serious foodborne illnesses caused by pathogenic bacteria…Zhu and Sheng’s objective throughout the study was to explore plant-derived compounds that can control foodborne pathogens – something food safety microbiologist Don Schaffner of Rutgers Univ. in New Brunswick, New Jersey said has been a popular, and important, topic in the food safety world. "In general, this kind of research has been going on for a long time," Schaffner said. "There’s been a lot of interest in spices for centuries."

Read the entire article at laboratoryequipment.com »