SEFS Grad Student Hyungmin Rho Presents Research at Conference in Florida

Hyungmin “Tony” Rho, a second-year doctoral student at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS), recently presented some of his research at the 2013 ASA, CSSA and SSSA International Annual Meetings in Tampa, Fla., November 3-6. A joint meeting of three different societies—the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America—this year’s conference focused on the theme, “Water, Food, Energy & Innovation for a Sustainable World.”

Tony Rho

Tony Rho with rice plants in the Douglas Conservatory at the Center for Urban Horticulture.

Rho, who works with Professor Soo-Hyung Kim in the Plant Ecophysiology Lab, presented his poster, “Bacterial Endophytes Living in Intercellular Spaces of Leaves Lower Leaf Water Potential of Rice (Oryza sativa) Plants,” during the “Crop Physiology and Metabolism” session. His research is funded by USDA-NIFA and is the collaborative work of three labs, including Professors Kim and Sharon Doty at SEFS, both of whom were coauthors for his oral presentation. Other SEFS grad students involved in this research include Evan Henrich and Shyam Kandel.

“I believe these beneficial bacteria could be one of the potential bio-fertilizers in the future that can mitigate the climate change impacts derived from the current agricultural practice of using extensive amounts of nitrogen fertilizers,” says  Rho. “My presentation gave a good glimpse of our novel approach to mitigate climate change impacts, and I got positive feedback from the audience.”

In addition to giving a presentation, Rho attended other sessions about current research trends and got to meet with a wide range of scientists and grad students. “I think it was a perfect opportunity for me to make social and professional connections throughout the conference,” he says, “as well as to introduce myself and my research.”

To assist with the cost of travel and attending the meetings, Rho received financial support from Director’s Student Travel funds at SEFS, and also from the Graduate School Fund for Excellence and Innovation (GSFEI).

Photo of Tony Rho © Tony Rho.

SEFS Seminar Series: Week 4 Preview

Increasing albedo through leaf pubescence has long been recognized as an effective morphological adaptation for plants in hot and dry environments, says Professor Soo-Hyung Kim. Will breeding crops for high albedo be an effective adaptation strategy for climate change?

Find out this Tuesday, October 22, in Week 4 of the SEFS Seminar Series when Professor Kim gives his talk, “Is Increasing Leaf Albedo an Effective Crop Improvement Strategy for Climate Change Adaptation?”

Soo-Hyung Kim

Encelia farinosa, which you’ll learn more about in Professor Kim’s talk!

Professor Kim received his Ph.D. in ecology, with an emphasis on agroecology, from the University of California at Davis, and his BS and MS degrees from the Department of Agronomy at Seoul National University in South Korea. He joined SEFS in September 2006 after working as a plant physiologist in the Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory at Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland, where he investigated field crop responses to climate change.

Today, Kim’s research is centered on the physiology and ecology of plant responses to environmental stress. An important aspect of his research is to apply ecophysiological principles to modeling crop growth and yield for evaluating climate impacts and climate adaptation strategies in agroecosystems. He is also interested in examining the connections between crops, climate change and human health.

You’ll get a great look at some of that research in his talk tomorrow, so come out and join us!

The seminars are held on Tuesdays from 3:30-4:20 p.m. in Anderson 223, and all students, staff and faculty are encouraged to attend. Make sure to mark your calendars for the rest of the seminars this fall!

Photo © G. Wagner,


Dissertation Defense: Rachel Mitchell!

Rachel Mitchell

Rachel Mitchell at an experimental grassland at Glacial Heritage Preserve, Wash.

Thesis season is in high gear, and we have another great dissertation defense coming up this Monday, May 13, with Rachel Mitchell: “The Extent, Drivers and Consequences of Intraspecific Variation in Plant Functional Traits.”

Although plant functional traits are increasingly used to explore and understand plant ecology, most studies assume that intraspecific variation in functional traits is negligible. Recent research, however, indicates that this is not the case, and that intraspecific trait variation may play an important role in plant communities and ecosystem function. Mitchell’s defense focuses on the extent, drivers and consequences of intraspecific trait variation in grassland species and communities.

Mitchell’s committee chair is Professor Jon Bakker, and her other committee members include SEFS Professors Sarah Reichard and Soo-Hyung Kim, along with Janneke Hille Ris Lambers, Martha Groom and Regina Rochefort.

Mark your calendars and clear some space to come see Mitchell’s talk this coming Monday morning at 9 a.m. in Anderson 22!

Photo © Rachel Mitchell.

Arboretum History, Maps Going Digital

Grid Map

Arboretum grid map, before.

Since it opened in 1934, the Washington Park Arboretum has hosted thousands of plant collections and species, each with a meticulously kept record and history. Until recently, many of those details from 1934 through the 1980s—when the database became digital—have been preserved solely on paper, scribbled on grid maps or filed in countless handwritten notes.

This past August, though, the University of Washington Botanic Gardens (UWBG) received a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services to begin digitizing those records and create an interactive Geographic Information Systems (GIS) map for the entire park. In the end, planners and visitors will be able to go online and pinpoint specific plants and collections within the arboretum, and access all sorts of historical details—a prospect that has everyone at UWBG and the arboretum buzzing.

“People will be able to find an area in the Arboretum, then zoom down and see which plants are there,” says Tracy Mehlin, project manager and information technology librarian at the Center for Urban Horticulture. “It will be really fascinating and educational to have all of that history linked to the plant records, and accessible online to everyone.”

Grid Map

Arboretum grid map, after.

One of the first tasks of the project was to begin surveying and verifying the geospatial coordinates of the 230-acre park, which decades ago was originally divided into 595 grid squares, each 100 feet by 100 feet. When those grid markers and coordinates are confirmed, they will be used to create a map that supports the geo-referenced database. Two- and three-person teams of students and staff have already been out surveying for the past couple months.

It’s a multi-tiered project, and Mehlin has been working closely with other partners at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS).

Sarah Reichard, director of UWBG, is the principal investigator on the grant along with Soo-Hyung Kim, a professor of plant ecophysiology. Jim Lutz, a research scientist and engineer with the College of the Environment, has been helping coordinate the student survey crews and GIS mapping, and David Campbell is working on the searchable database and Web interface. Others involved are helping with various projects, including digitizing the existing maps, as well as handwritten notes and histories attached to each of the park’s 10,000 accessions (plants specifically added and catalogued as part of the arboretum’s collections).When completed, the searchable database will be a boon for environmental research and park management. It will also expand interpretative opportunities for visitors.

“The really fun part of it starts when it’s done,” says Reichard. “The idea is that eventually you’d be able to get the coordinates of a particular collection, like our magnolias, and locate them on your cell phone or GPS unit. We can start putting together virtual tours, and visitors can go from plant to plant.”

The grant covers two years and is expected to run through August 2014. By then, anyone with a Web-connected device will have unprecedented access to most of the living collections—barring a few rare species—at the arboretum. And for the rest, you’ll just have to come out and explore the park on foot!

Images courtesy of Tracy Mehlin.