Study Looks at Gender Change in Black Sea Bass as Survival Tactic

black_sea_bass_grnmsScientists have long known black sea bass are “protogynous hermaphrodites,” a species in which fish that begin life as females can switch gender to male. But the details of how and why that happens are not completely understood. A study led by Professor of Marine and Coastal Sciences Olaf Jensen suggests that this behavior may be a strategy to keep balance in the population. Understanding the dynamics of the sex change could help biologists and government fisheries managers better assess the overall black sea bass stock, calculations that up to now have been forcing season closures and lost money for the shore’s party and charter boat fleet. Read more at Rutgers Today.

What’s in Season from the Garden State: The Basil Battle – New Cultivars on the Horizon to Beat Downy Mildew

Professor James E. Simon and plant breeding Ph.D. student Rob Pyne in the basil greenhouse. After years of crosses and evaluations in fields and greenhouse, they are well down the path to developing a sweet basil variety resistant to the destructive downy mildew pathogen. Photo by Jack Rabin.

Professor James E. Simon and plant breeding Ph.D. student Rob Pyne in the basil greenhouse. After years of crosses and evaluations in fields and greenhouse, they are well down the path to developing a sweet basil variety resistant to the destructive downy mildew pathogen. Photo by Jack Rabin.

For the past seven years, a familiar scenario has been playing out on farms and in gardens across the U.S. A healthy, fragrant crop of sweet basil begins to display yellowing leaves. Upon closer inspection, the undersides of the leaves show signs of a menacing grayish sporulation. It is only a matter of time before the basil plant and others in proximity succumb to this new disease of basil, downy mildew.

Neither a fungus or a mold, downy mildew is the common name for a group of highly specialized plant pathogens called “oomycetes” that infect and feed off of living host plants. Each downy mildew is specific to its host plant. For instance, downy mildew of impatiens, another recent scourge, is specific to impatiens, while basil downy mildew affects only basil – with the most popular type, sweet basil, being the most susceptible.

Basil downy mildew favors heat and humidity, and by mid to late summer, when there is enough inoculum, the disease is widespread in our region. According to Extension Specialist in Vegetable Pathology Andy Wyenandt at Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, basil downy mildew can’t overwinter in our region and can only survive the winter in southern Florida and Texas, where it is a year-round threat. The rapid spread to northern states during the growing season is through the planting of infested seed, by importing southern-grown plant material, or via weather patterns coming from southern states. [Read more…]

Better Tasting Strawberry Developed at Rutgers Makes Its Debut

99-204-01 Snyder trial May 31 2013_-9It’s been ten years in the making, but the team that has launched the Rutgers Scarlet Strawberry (RSS) knows they have a winner. Coming from retired plant biology professor Gojko Jelenkovic’s 20 years of testing hundreds of varieties to develop a better tasting strawberry, the RSS is the first of several new varieties that are coming to market after several years of field trials on New Jersey farms conducted by Agricultural Agents Pete Nitzsche and Bill Hlubik. Read more at Rutgers Today.

Ph.D. Student David Jespersen: From Psychology to Plant Science

David Jespersen taking field samples at the University of Georgia–Griffin agricultural research station in Summer 2014 as part of a collaborative project to better understand the underlying genetics that control heat tolerance in grasses. Photo: Courtesy of David Jespersen.

David Jespersen taking field samples at the University of Georgia–Griffin agricultural research station in Summer 2014 as part of a collaborative project to better understand the underlying genetics that control heat tolerance in grasses. Photo: Courtesy of David Jespersen.

David Jespersen, doctoral student in plant biology, received the Graduate School–New Brunswick Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research for his exceptional research accomplishments at the Spring Awards ceremony on April 23. He was one of six awardees chosen among all graduate students campuswide.

A mere six years earlier, David graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the School of Arts and Sciences—far removed from the world of plant science. So, how did he get from studying psychology to being on the verge of completing his dissertation research on identifying heat-tolerance traits and genes in bentgrass and helping to develop heat-tolerant bentgrass and other species, all the while earning several significant accolades for his achievements along the way?

“I’d taken a few electives in plant science as an undergraduate and found that I had a growing interest in plants, and in my final undergraduate semester I went to talk to the graduate program director about pursuing a master’s degree in plant science,” explains Jespersen. “As it turned out, instead of pursuing a master’s degree, I turned my attention to a Ph.D. instead, with the encouragement of Prof. Huang.” [Read more…]

Unearthing a Buried Treasure, Part II: Student’s Vision for Trail Renovation Enabled by Fellow Students

Eliot Nagele by one of two man-made ponds that are part of the trail.

Eliot Nagele (SEBS 2015) stands by one of two man-made ponds that are part of the trail.

The Arbor Trail is located behind the University Inn and Conference Center on the Douglass Campus. Rutgers purchased the property in 1965. The Inn is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and the trail had its grand re-opening on Rutgers Day 2015 on April 25, as part of the Inn’s anniversary celebration.

In 1908, armed with a degree in mechanical engineering, young Sydney Bleecker Carpender began his business career with the Brunswick Refrigerating Company, a manufacturer of refrigerating and ice-making machinery. Carpender became the company’s vice-president and general manager in 1911, at age 27. That same year he had a manor built on his family’s property in New Brunswick for him and his wife, the former Louise Johnson, daughter of one of the founding brothers of Johnson & Johnson. A horticultural enthusiast, Carpender created a unique man-made landscape on the estate complete with rolling meadows, ponds and a wooded trail established with select landscape plantings and trees. [Read more…]