Faculty in the News In the News

February 25, 2015 at 8:50 am

Illinois Newspaper: Plant Growth Research Returns to Earth

“A research project conducted by professors at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Ohio University recently returned to earth aboard the SpaceX Dragon Capsule after spending a month in earth orbit on the International Space Station,” reports the Edwardsville (IL) Intelligencer.

Darron Luesse, an associate professor in the department of biological sciences at SIUE, together with Sarah Wyatt, professor in the department of environmental and plant biology at Ohio University designed the study to find out how zero gravity affects plant growth and development.

This research, Luesse said, could provide new and exciting insights into how plants respond to a zero gravity environment. Like any organism, plants interact with their environment by responding to predictable sensory input. In a plant’s world, light indicates “up” and gravity indicates “down.” So what happens when these environmental cues are no longer available? Funded by a nearly $400,000 NASA grant, and access to the International Space Station research facilities, Luesse and Wyatt are about to find out.

“It’s important to them because they are interested in figuring out how we can live in space, basically,” said Luesse. “NASA spends a lot of time and money figuring out how organisms exist in space, what’s different for them and how they adapt to those challenges.”

From the time a seed germinates, Luesse explained, until the end of a plant’s life, it uses gravity to make decisions about which direction to grow and how to position its branches and leaves.

“When plants are grown on the space station they have basically no information, so they end of being kind of confused,” he said.

Read the entire article.

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