Intelligent Information Technologies in Education and Science – Ukraine

 

On October 18, 2017, the Interdisciplinary Workshop on the dissemination of knowledge on “Intellectual Information Technologies in Education and Science” took place at the Faculty of Chemistry and Biology of the Ternopil National Pedagogical University (TNPU).

The co-organizers of this event were Andriy and Natalia Hertz, employees of the Department of General Biology and Methodology of Natural Sciences Teaching and the Department of Botany and Zoology (Faculty of Chemistry and Biology of TNPU).

According to the program, a demonstration of the possibilities of IT solutions in biological, educational and pedagogical research took place. 

In particular, the on-line PhotosynQ platform was presented as a web tool for an integrated assessment of the physiological state of plants. 

Information was disseminated on how the MultispeQ can measure, collect and analyze photosynthesis data in field and laboratory conditions.

The focus was on the openness and flexibility of the PhotosynQ platform and the development of educational tools through it, and more.

The students and faculty all wished to have the opportunity to work with MultispeQ and PhotosynQ and to evaluate the condition of plants for themselves.

More Info [English] | More Info [Original]

The NPQ(T) Parameter

Measuring non-photochemical quenching in a few seconds without an initial long dark acclimation.

Over the past 3 years, many MultispeQ users have noticed that the NPQ(T) parameter (and ΦNPQ) can be a powerful predictor of plant stress, either biotic or abiotic. The NPQ(T) parameter has also correlated with crop yields in some PhotosynQ projects, like this project from Malawi.

Indeed, one of the big breakthroughs with the MultispeQ is the ability to estimate NPQ (Non-Photochemical Quenching) without a long dark acclimation period, which allows us to develop robust protocols that take less than 20 seconds. So how is the NPQ(T) parameter derived and how does it compare to the established NPQ parameter?

Tietz et al. out of the Kramer Lab have just published a paper in Plant, Cell and Environment describing the parameter and its derivation. Congratulations!

Read the peer reviewed publication or the story on the Michigan State University’s Plant Research Laboratories Website, Protecting plants from the power of sunlight.

Tietz, S., Hall, C. C., Cruz, J. A., Kramer, D. M. (2017) NPQ(T): a chlorophyll fluorescence parameter for rapid estimation and imaging of non-photochemical quenching of excitons in photosystem-II-associated antenna complexes Plant. Cell Environ. 40(8), 1243–1255. doi:10.1111/pce.12924

PhotosynQ Focus

Focusing on how the community is using PhotosynQ technologies. This month we are highlighting Matthew Daniel, an Arborist from Australia and one of PhotosynQ’s most active users.

matthew

Matthew is the director of Tree Preservation Australia and CEO of Global Urban Forest Pty Ltd, a company dedicated to the relationship between soil and tree health and the science of urban forestry. He travels to many cities in Australia and abroad collecting data on tree and soil health and prescribing proper health care programs to ensure that cities have happy, healthy trees. These prescriptions include compost tea’s, deep root soil injections, and vascular stem injections of specially formulated microbial plant and soil health inoculants and organic stimulants. However, his job was limited by the lack of affordable tools and the ability to share data and results with others.

How Matthew Connected with PhotosynQ

Matthew Daniel was born and raised in Tasmania, where he first developed his interest in trees and the outdoors in general. We asked him what his first memories with trees were and he told us “When I was 5 years old my uncle found me 40 feet up a tree, freaked my mum out”, no doubt this guy was destined to climb trees for a living! He would eventually receive training and certifications for arboriculture, working near high voltage power lines and in confined spaces, become a partner in Tree Preservation Australia and eventually founded Global Urban Forest Pty Ltd.

From the moment he first heard about PhotosynQ he knew “it was exactly what I needed to understand the tree health response to soil health intervention.” He has now completely integrated the PhotosynQ platform into his workflow saying “I use PhotosynQ before, during and after all the trees I work with.” That is a lot of trees!

He successfully applied to be a PhotosynQ beta tester and created his main project tree health calculator – Beta/Experts Program – 2015-2017, which has over 8,000 data points. Matthew recently received the new MultispeQ v1.0 and is working hard to build collaborations with community groups across Australia.

Now What?

Ultimately, Matthew wants to use PhotosynQ as “an international collaborative platform to be a major part in quantifying and mitigating climate change.” Matthew believes that a global arborist community that shares data on a common, open platform can do more than improve the health of individual urban trees. It can also help to mitigate one of the causative factors of the Urban Heat Island Effect, namely a lack of vegetation in cities. Lack of vegetation in cities decreases levels of both evapotranspiration and carbon dioxide removal. It has been observed over the last century that cities are significantly warmer than the rural areas that surround them. The UHI effect affects many areas of life, such as the weather, health and the environment. It will increase the production of rain clouds and thunder over your city, make you more prone to violence during heat waves, increase your electricity bill, and even kill off fish in lakes and streams just outside your city if mitigation processes are not undertaken. By going around Australian cities and learning about the trees that are present, Matthew and a global arborist community can learn which trees are most effective at mitigating the UHI effect and make your city a more enjoyable environment.

He knows this will not be easy, but it’s the potential that is driving Matthew. The potential to build a global arborist community that can collect data for cities that they can then utilize to manage their urban tree population, the potential to reduce the urban heat island effect, and finally, the potential to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Thank you to Matthew Daniel for allowing us to write about him and taking the time to answer all our questions. Hope to see you back in the US soon!

 

PhotosynQ Focus

Now that the MultispeQ v1.0 instruments are released, we want to share some stories of how the community is using PhotosynQ technolgies. Today we want to focus on Isaac Osei-Bonsu from Ghana, currently a PhD student in the Kramer Lab at Michigan State University.

 

OB_Isaac

Isaac Osei-Bonsu has been a PhotosynQ user since the early beta days in 2015. Over that time, he has collected over 13,000 measurements and created 46 PhotosynQ projects. As we worked towards releasing the new instruments, Isaac was often tasked with testing out new MultispeQ prototypes, and some iterations did not work so well! At the end of the day, Isaac collected over 3,000 measurements with MultispeQ v1.0 prototypes and his feedback helped us to modify and improve the MultispeQ throughout the design and manufacturing process.

Isaac’s background

Isaac hails from the west African nation of Ghana, where he was a research scientist for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research-Crops Research Institute (CSIR-CRI). In Isaac’s own words, “The company is a National Agricultural Research institution which focuses on research on different crop species with the aim to improve agriculture in Ghana.” He studied a wide variety of crops including cowpea, peanut, pepper, eggplants, citrus, mangoes, avocado, pear, papaya and watermelon.

Ghana, like many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, is struggling to achieve food security and develop a robust economy. This means that the government wants farmers to produce more high value crops, like cocoa, for international markets. However, this comes at the expense of land for growing food crops, which is why it is so important to improve the productivity and efficiency of important food crops.

What Isaac is doing now

Isaac arrived at MSU with the help of a Legume Scholars Award which he received from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in 2015. The Legume Scholars Program supports the graduate study of young scientists from developing countries so they can pursue research careers involving grain legumes  (http://legumelab.msu.edu/training/legume_scholars).

Isaac’s is studying the photosynthetic response of  grain legumes to abiotic stress in order to improve grain legume production. His interest with automatic plant phenotyping was piqued “by the simple yet powerful nature of the MultispeQ device, connected to the PhotosynQ platform, and its possible use for rapid phenotyping in the field.” Manual phenotyping can be extremely slow and not entirely accurate. The MultispeQ instrument and the PhotosynQ platform make it easy and quick. He now uses the MultispeQ in most of his experiments. He doesn’t just use PhotosynQ because it is easier, but also because it allows him to develop a deeper understanding of abiotic stress responses in grain legumes.

Thank you to Isaac for taking some time out of your busy days to answer all of our questions. Having Isaac around our lab is a pleasure and his input into the PhotosynQ platform and MultispeQ instruments have been invaluable. We hope our instruments can help him as much as he has helped us and wish him luck in his continued research.

Teachers Workshop at Kellogg Biological Station

I traveled to the MSU K-12 Partnership 2017 Spring Workshop at the Kellogg Biological Station on April 18 with Klara Schnargl. Klara is a Future Academic Scholars in Teaching fellow and she is interested in strengthening the connections between Universities and K-12 education programs. The purpose of the program on this day was to bring graduate students and postdocs from MSU together with middle and high school biology teachers.

Klara and I were going to run a session for teachers who were interested in new, hands on, methods of teaching kids about photosynthesis. We thought that the MultispeQ instrument, combined with the ease of generating simple graphs on the PhotosynQ platform, could be a great way for students to visualize how plants use the light energy they capture and how they respond and regulate photosynthesis in response to their environment.

education blog image

We conducted a really simple experiment with the teachers so they could see PhotosynQ in action. Klara brought along two orchids in small pots and it was a beautiful, sunny spring day. So, we quickly created a project (‘KBS educational module April, 2017’) on www.photosynq.org that asked which session (we had one morning and one afternoon session) was collecting data and whether the plant was inside or outside (2 minutes). Then, after a brief talk about how to connect your phone to the MultispeQ and how to take a quality measurement (4 minutes) the teachers collected some measurements from the orchids in the classroom (5 minutes). Next, we took our orchids out into the sunshine and gave them time to adjust to their new surroundings (2 minutes). After a few more MultispeQ measurements we were heading back into the classroom to check out our data (5 minutes). We logged on to our PhotosynQ project and created a couple of graphs to compare Phi2, PhiNPQ, PhiNO and LEF inside and outside (4 minutes).

In 22 minutes we went from ‘this is MultispeQ’ to ‘look how our orchids regulated incoming light in our experiment.’

The teachers that came to our session were great, with lots of fun ideas on how they could use PhotosynQ in their classrooms and we are looking forward to working with them in the future.

Science Fun – Science faire in Ukraine

A science faire was held on May 22nd in Ternopol – IV at Theater Square.  The goal of the event was to popularize science among young people and excite the next generation of scientists in Ukraine.

There were about a dozen tents where schools and universities demonstrated scientific experiments in chemistry, biology and physics to the public.  Students of the Faculty of Chemical and Biological (http://chem-bio.com.ua), part of Ternopil Volodymyr Hnatyuk National Pedagogical University, http://tnpu.edu.ua)  presented PhotosynQ, created by scientists at Michigan State University.

Schoolchildren, students, and young scientists had the opportunity to personally touch science in the truest sense of the word. With the device MultispeQ, anyone could measure the progress of biophysical processes otherwise invisible to the eye in leaves of Phaseolus vulgaris plants and share data throughout the world via the PhotosynQ platform.

The interest and excitement generated at this event shows that science can be very interesting and exciting thing that unites the world.

by Andriy and Nataliia Herts

MultispeQ in Malawi

As the development team focuses on manufacturing the MultispeQ v1.0, we’ll have a series of articles from project partners and developers we hope you find interesting. We’ve had a great response to the pre-release, so thanks to everyone! – Greg

malawi multispeq users
(left) Masters student Hellen Mwale and Kareem Longwe practice data collection with the MultispeQ to get ready for data collection on FRN’s in Central Malawi. (right) Frank Mnthambala and Margaret Chiipanthenga collect data on soybeans in a greenhouse in Bvumbwe, Malawi to identify drought tolerant cultivars.

Over the past year we have partnered with a number of researchers in Malawi who have collected over 30,000 measurements on 15 different projects using PhotosynQ. Our partners in Malawi include researchers from the Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS), Lilongwe University of Agricultural Research Services (LUANAR), and a private seed company (Global Seeds). I just got back from 2 weeks in Malawi meeting with them and getting their feedback on PhotosynQ.

Access to high quality laboratory equipment is lacking in Malawi, so researchers are very excited about what information MultispeQ can provide to them. In many cases, field based plant breeding and cropping systems research has been limited to data that can be recorded with a scale and tape measure. With PhotosynQ, they can see beyond what happened (e.g. how the crop yielded) and can start to understand the reasons why crops performed the way they did (e.g. how plants regulated photosynthesis to adapt to their conditions).

Despite a lot of enthusiasm, there are some real challenges that need to be overcome to collect quality data. Internet infrastructure in Malawi is very poor and the internet is often too slow to work effectively on-line or doesn’t work at all. This makes it difficult for users to create projects and analyze results. But it also means that users don’t update their mobile app very often. So they may still be trying to work around bugs in an older version of the app that we have already fixed in a newer release.

Another challenge to using PhotosynQ in Malawi is frequent ‘brown-outs.’ Partners can’t count on the electricity being on when they need to recharge their phones or MultispeQ batteries. Some partners in Malawi have responded by using ‘power banks.’ A power bank is a small extra battery that can hold enough charge to recharge your phone 2-3x. They will plug it right into their phone or tablet’s usb port in the field and recharge their mobile device while taking measurements. It’s one more thing to hold onto in the field, but it solves a problem.

malawi battery pack
A student uses a power bank to keep his mobile device working in the field.

This coming year our partners have even more interesting projects planned. Everything from variety trials of soybean, sweet potato, maize, common beans, and pigeonpea to studies analyzing the effects of cropping systems on crop performance (click here to see a list of existing projects + data). These projects will take place on research stations and smallholder farms all around Malawi.

Two Master’s students from LUANAR will be using PhotosynQ on Farm Research Networks (FRN’s) to assess how different legume-based cropping systems can increase production on smallholder farms. FRN’s are research trials that are located on smallholder farms, instead of research stations, and are managed by the farmers themselves. As such, they paint a much more accurate picture of how ‘new’ cropping systems affect crop production on smallholder farmers. What’s really exciting is that these 2 students will be collecting data on FRN’s that include over 300 farms in 3 districts in Malawi. Even if they only collect PhotosynQ data on 1/3 of the farms, it will be the largest on-farm data collection using PhotosynQ to date! And it will take place with poor internet connectivity and frequent power outages!

More Malawi Projects

Dan TerAvest