Measuring campaign in the Alps

I joined a field measuring campaign organized by my collaborator T. Matthew Robson (see Matt’s CanSEE website for information on the research project) with the participation of José Ignacio García Plazaola and Beatriz Fernandez-Marin from the University of the Basque-Country.

Matthew described the aim of our work as:

By characterising the patterns of response to UV radiation in terms of the photoprotection and UV-screening of plants across a diversity of species, we hope to better understand how and why these response evolved and what environmental cues underpin their induction.

We spent the last weeks of May the at 2100 m a.s.l. in the Alps at the Jardin Botanique du Lautaret measuring solar radiation and the responses of plants to it. I did some measurements of solar radiation but spent most of the time photographing plants and lichens to record their optical properties in the ultraviolet-A, visible and near-infrared regions of the spectrum.

Villar-d’Arêne, French Alps, 2100 m a.s.l.

Several of the photographs I took of site, crew, plants and lichens available at my photography website in a post published earlier today (as I have the server set up for easy creation of galleries). These photographs are stored at Flickr.

Matthew has also written a post about the trip and project in his blog.

Perspectives on plant UV-research and its applications

An article, titled “A perspective on ecologically relevant plant-UV research and its practical application”, to be included in the PPS special issue, has been published on-line. It originated on discussions at the second UV4Plants Network meeting held in Bled last year, but writing and editing continued for several months. The article has been published under open access and is available through PPS’ web site. Several members of our research group and some of our collaborators are co-authors.

The graphical and text abstracts are reproduced below.

Graphical abstract from the article. Copyrighted (c) 2019.


Plants perceive ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation through the UV-B photoreceptor UV RESISTANCE LOCUS 8 (UVR8), and initiate regulatory responses via associated signalling networks, gene expression and metabolic pathways. Various regulatory adaptations to UV-B radiation enable plants to harvest information about fluctuations in UV-B irradiance and spectral composition in natural environments, and to defend themselves against UV-B exposure. Given that UVR8 is present across plant organs and tissues, knowledge of the systemic signalling involved in its activation and function throughout the plant is important for understanding the context of specific responses. Fine-scale understanding of both UV-B irradiance and perception within tissues and cells requires improved application of knowledge about UV-attenuation in leaves and canopies, warranting greater consideration when designing experiments. In this context, reciprocal crosstalk among photoreceptor-induced pathways also needs to be considered, as this appears to produce particularly complex patterns of physiological and morphological response. Through crosstalk, plant responses to UV-B radiation go beyond simply UV-protection or amelioration of damage, but may give cross-protection over a suite of environmental stressors. Overall, there is emerging knowledge showing how information captured by UVR8 is used to regulate molecular and physiological processes, although understanding of upscaling to higher levels of organisation, i.e. organisms, canopies and communities remains poor. Achieving this will require further studies using model plant species beyond Arabidopsis, and that represent a broad range of functional types. More attention should also be given to plants in natural environments in all their complexity, as such studies are needed to acquire an improved understanding of the impact of climate change in the context of plant-UV responses. Furthermore, broadening the scope of experiments into the regulation of plant-UV responses will facilitate the application of UV radiation in commercial plant production. By considering the progress made in plant-UV research, this perspective highlights prescient topics in plant-UV photobiology where future research efforts can profitably be focussed. This perspective also emphasises burgeoning interdisciplinary links that will assist in understanding of UV-B effects across organisational scales and gaps in knowledge that need to be filled so as to achieve an integrated vision of plant responses to UV-radiation.


Researchers mentoring researchers

Mentoring has been an everyday activity for me as supervisor of students (PhD and MSc) and postdoctoral researchers. This mentoring has usually focused mainly on research itself, and the specific field of research I work in. In addition I have brought to the discussion more general topics but they had been mostly unplanned detours from other discussions. To some extent, answering questions in ResearchGate, StackOverflow and through e-mail, has also been small-scale mentoring. I have regularly taught at and organized training events for PhD students and early stage researchers. In recent years I have edited a handbook on methods in photobiology, and co-authored another one on calculations related to photobiology. I have written a text book on the R language, aimed mainly at independent learning. I have developed open-source software to make correct calculations and plotting of radiation data as used in photobiology easier. The aim behind all this work has been to make “good science” easier to carry out, and through mentoring and training, to encourage other researchers in my own field to pay more attention into avoiding methodological pitfalls. Continue reading “Researchers mentoring researchers”

Grant application

We have submitted a joint grant application to the Academy of Finland and National Science Foundation of China. Our Chinese partner is Prof. Hailiang Xu and his team, from the Chinese Academy of Science at Urumqi, Xinjiang in Western China. The proposal is related to the desert riparian forest along the river Tarim, and its dominant tree, Populus euphratica.

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