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Stern Visits Boyce Thompson Arboretum and Chandler Gilbert Community College

D. Stern and visiting committee listens to M. Siegwarth

David Stern and members of the visiting committee listen to Mark Siegwarth, Executive Director of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum

M. Siegwarth and D. Stern

Mark Siegwarth, Executive Director of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, with David Stern, CEO of Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research

D. Stern presents seminar

BTI President and CEO David Stern presents seminar entitled “Commercializing algal biofuels: Hope or hype?” at Chandler Gilbert Community College in Chandler, Arizona

Pushpa Ramakrishna

Pushpa Ramakrishna, biology professor at Chandler Gilbert Community College, and 2014 graduate of BTI’s BBEP Summer Institute

BTI President and CEO David Stern visited Arizona April 14-16 to attend the Boyce Thompson Arboretum board meeting and to speak about algae-derived bioproducts and his own algal biofuel research, at Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Chandler, Arizona.

Stern has served on the board of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum since 2006 and has promoted the appointment of an external scientific review committee for the Arboretum, which met earlier that week. The committee’s charge is to assess the scientific potential of the Arboretum’s unique collection, which is already known for being Arizona’s largest and oldest botanical garden, containing thousands of arid and semi-arid species. The collection may be used to enhance knowledge of biodiversity at the molecular level, as a resource to study unique chemicals, to create an interpretive science garden or to increase knowledge of the organisms that live on or in the plants. BTA’s relationship with the University of Arizona also offers opportunities for collaboration.

BTA has also recently arranged to receive a plant collection currently maintained by the Wallace Gardens of Scottsdale, Arizona. The addition of these specimens will raise the number of species in the BTA collection to 5,371 taxa, which places them 19th in the United States for species diversity, and 66th in the world, according to a recent report by Botanic Gardens Conservation International, said BTA Executive Director Mark Siegwarth.

William Boyce Thompson, founder of the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, started construction on the Arboretum on April 1, 1924, the same year he founded BTI, on 400 acres of land that he owned east of Phoenix. Besides sharing a founder, BTA and BTI also share common goals to foster plant research and education. The BTA mission is to “instill in people an appreciation of plants through the fostering of educational, recreational, research and conservation opportunities associated with arid-land plants,” echoing the BTI mission to “advance and communicate scientific knowledge in plant biology to improve agriculture, protect the environment, and enhance human health.”

Informal ties between the two organizations exist to this day. BTA Business Manager Patti Baynham attended BTI’s 90th Celebration, and the manager of the Martin laboratory, Diane Dunham, recently visited the BTA.

While in Arizona, Stern delivered a scientific seminar entitled “Commercializing algal biofuels: Hope or hype?” at Chandler Gilbert Community College in Chandler, Arizona. His talk highlighted the potential of algal biofuels and the challenges that must be surmounted before algal products become a significant contributor to our energy mix, as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Pushpa Ramakrishna, a biology professor at the college, hosted Stern’s visit. Ramakrishna attended BTI’s 2014 Bioenergy and Bioproducts Education Program institute and has since kept in touch with the BTI. She tailored the program’s material to a community college level for her honors biology course, and presented the curriculum at the 2015 Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM in February.

For more on the Stern Laboratory biofuels research program, visit the BTI website

For more information about the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, see their website here.

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