Dr. Joanne Chory

Dr. Joanne Chory is an American plant biologist and geneticist. Chory is a professor and director of the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory, at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She holds the Howard H. and Maryam R. Newman Chair in Plant Biology. In 1999, she was elected to the United States National Academy of Science for her discoveries in light-regulated plant seedling development. She is also an adjunct professor in the Section of Cell and Developmental Biology, UC San Diego (Wikipedia, 2019). Dr. Chory grew up in Boston the 3rd of 6 children in a close-knit Lebanese American family. The security of a loving family helped her develop the self-confidence to do hard things and venture into the unknown – college away from home where she fell in love with genetics, and graduate school where she learned the value of doing a good experiment and the joy that brings. This year she celebrated 32 years of marriage while watching her two beautiful children, who still make her laugh after all these years, becoming adults. In her long career as a Professor of Genetics at The Salk Institute – where she has trained over 100 students and postdocs – she has pursued fundamental questions of how plants perceive and adapt to their environment. She recently realized that she could apply these learnings to address the critical problem of climate change. Plants already take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, we just need to help them adapt to storing CO2 in a more stable form. She’s excited to take one more step into the unknown, with a chance to impact the future!

November 3, 2019 | 3:30 PM | Lory Student Center Theatre

Title: Harnessing Plants to Fight Climate Change: It takes a Global Village to Fight a Global Problem

The world is facing a global sustainability crisis. The population stands today at >7.5B and is expected to increase to 11B by 2100.  The increasing demand for food, fuel, land, and other natural resources is creating consequences, including rising temperatures, weather extremes, collapsing ecosystems, and ocean acidification. This exceeds the planet’s capacity to absorb change and maintain stability.  At the current pace of change, human life as we know it may not be sustainable on earth in a little over 100 years. Feeling the urgent need to be a part of the solution, my colleagues and I developed a plan to bend the upward trending curve back down to a range where the planet’s natural systems of maintaining balance can cope.  The idea is to improve plants’ natural ability to capture and store carbon in the ground.  I will tell you about our plans to alter 3 traits in plant roots that we hope will allow us to draw down CO2 at a global level in 10 years. Recent advances in plant biology suggest that this goal is within our reach. By improving plants’ natural ability to deposit carbon in the soil in a form that does not easily decompose, we can sequester enough CO2 to make a significant contribution to the global effort to become carbon neutral.

November 4, 2019 | 4:00 PM | Lory Student Center Grey Rock Room

Title: Fifty Shades of Shade:  How plants respond to dynamic changes in their local light environment

Abstract: Plants are rooted in the ground, and must constantly adapt their growth and architecture to an ever-changing environment.  Our lab studies the mechanisms that allow plants to achieve this remarkable flexibility in form.  We want to understand in great detail how plants perceive information from their local environment, process it, and integrate it into a growth program that is optimized for the prevailing conditions.   We have primarily focused on changes in light:  including changes in color, intensity, daylength, and direction. Light influences every developmental transition of plants from seed germination to flowering, having dramatic effects on the growth of seedlings where it stimulates leaf and chloroplast development, inhibits stem growth, and induces the expression of thousands of nuclear- and chloroplast-encoded genes. We have used a variety of approaches to define several pathways that link photons to changes in plant architecture: Genetic screens identify key pathways in an unbiased way.  Biochemical and cell biological studies help us determine the regulatory mechanisms that control components of these pathways. We study these pathways in plants found all over the world to determine which gene activities are changed to allow adaptation to extreme environments.   The proper functioning of these pathways is fundamental to the survival of the greater than 400,000 species of flowering plants that successfully inhabit our earth.

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