Willamette professor earns NSF grant to study plants and climate change

The National Science Foundation has awarded Willamette University Biology Professor Gary Tallman with a grant of $249,980 towards his ongoing research on plant cell division and growth in the face of global climate change.

The grant will allow six Willamette undergraduates to work collaboratively with Tallman on his research, and it will help him create an upper-level biology seminar on plant signal transduction.

Tallman also plans to develop a workshop for the Willamette Valley Biological Education Network, a network among Oregon colleges to improve undergraduate biology education, which will help science faculty develop ways to integrate their research and teaching.

The grant is through an NSF program supporting research that addresses questions about "life in transition," including how living organisms are responding and adapting to climate change.

Tallman's endeavor, entitled "Effects of Heat Stress on Hormonal Signaling in a Thermotolerant Equatorial Perennial Plant, Nicotiana glauca (Graham)," is the latest in a long line of similar research that he began long before Al Gore brought widespread public attention to the climate change crisis.

Tallman's project seeks to determine whether a 5- to 6-degree Celsius difference in temperature has undesirable effects on growth and cell division in plants. Tallman's research to date shows that auxin, a growth hormone located in plant cells, is incapable of activating growth if temperatures are too high.

"This study has implications for conservation management of native, heat-tolerant plants and the animals that may depend on them," according to NSF. "It may also find application in the development of strategies to genetically engineer heat-tolerant perennial crops and ornamentals."

Read more about Tallman's grant on the National Science Foundation website, or learn more about his research in a 2007 article.