• Question: What do you hope to achieve with your research?

    Asked by Julia to Alex, Ana, Clay, Keegan, Mark on 27 Apr 2016.
    • Photo: Mark Ritchie

      Mark Ritchie answered on 27 Apr 2016:

      Flat out, I hope to discover things that change the world now. I think my team has made some of these discoveries already, and I am busy trying to get people to do things that will store greenhouse gases in the soil and improve their lives.

    • Photo: Alexander Taylor

      Alexander Taylor answered on 27 Apr 2016:

      I hope to figure out, with scores of other scientists from around the world, how different plant families repeatedly and independently gained the ability to partner with bacteria. This question is important for two main reasons:

      1) It can help us understand which other plants could make this partnership, which will help farmers make more nutritious food and reduce the amount of fertilizer they use and reduce polluting fertilizer runoff.

      2) It will give us an important example of how evolution uses and reuses the same basic building blocks in slightly different ways to make the same sorts of complicated organs. Another example of this is how squids and humans have very similar eyes, even though our common ancestors didn’t. The way these eyes are assembled, and the genetic machinery used, is surprisingly similar in the two distinct species, even though our eyes and squid eyes evolved independently!

    • Photo: Clay Robinson

      Clay Robinson answered on 5 May 2016:

      With both my research and my teaching, I want to find ways to help people become better stewards of the land, soil, water, and plant resources available in their ecosystem, whether natural ecosystems, or managed agroecosystems (crop and livestock production).
      As people become better managers with means to be more efficient with the resources, there will be less water runoff and erosion from land used for crop production. Nutrients applied as fertilizer to grow plants will be used more efficiently, and there will be less excess nutrients available to get into streams (with erosion and runoff) or ground water (as nutrients are carried down as water moves through the soil.
      All of these things will decrease the amount of water pollution from excess nutrients and sediments. Eventually this will help decrease the size of the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico and improve the water quality issues in Lake Erie. But we did not cause these problems in a year, and even if we could stop any additional nutrients from entering those river systems that feed the lake and the Gulf, it will take many years for the problems to improve.