Members from our team regularly teach biology classes to children at Rolla’s Kaleidoscope Discovery Center. The KDC is a developing science education facility, in which home-schooled children have the opportunity to take additional courses and where area children have access to other STEM activities. Members from our team developed coursework to teach local students science courses, as parents often feel less comfortable teaching STEM classes. We have taught a Plant Biology class, in which students learned about the plant cell, and established what makes plants different from other living things..
Robbie Doerhoff - MDC Forest Entomologist
We reached out to the Missouri Department of Conservation in order to understand the impact of EAB on a local scale, and gain the point of view of someone who deals with the Emerald Ash Borers themselves as well as their impact on trees. We had a conversation with Robbie Doerhoff, a Forest Entomologist with the MDC. Doerhoff was able to provide us with information on the economic impact of EABs, treatment options, and the perspective of someone who is dealing with ash conservation outside of the urban setting.
Pete Smith - Arbor Day Foundation, Urban Forester
We reached out to Pete Smith, an Urban Forestry Program Manager with the Arbor Day Foundation, in Lincoln, Nebraska. On this call, we gained understanding as to why ash trees should try to be saved, as they are a very effective urban landscaping tree, and a program currently in place where relic resistant trees are cross-bred with other ash. We also had an interesting discussion of potential application of a genetically engineered ash tree to be resistant to EABs, and the predicted acceptance of it to the public.
Eric North - UNL Urban Forester
We also reached out to Dr. Eric North, Assistant Professor of Practice regarding Regional and Community Forestry at University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Dr. North was able to give us insight into how EABs are being dealt with currently in urban settings. We learned the varying cost of treating the ash trees, as well as different methods and their benefits and drawbacks. He also gave us insight into the thought process of an urban forester, such as having more diversity of trees in cities, and how this line of work is always playing the “long game” - as their choices must anticipate problems for the trees in the next 20 to 50 years. We were also educated on the lack of an effective method to track EABs, and how this can make management very difficult.
Monsanto - Tour
Members from our team were able to visit the Monsanto Center in St. Louis, now Bayer, and take a guided tour of their facilities. We were able to see genetically engineered plants, and the process in which seeds are produced and distributed. We had an insightful conversation with Sarah Nash, STEM Education Outreach Communication Specialist, whom was leading our tour, about the potential for a Bt Ash tree, and the implementations of Bt already being used by Monsanto.
Monsanto - Visit & Panel Discussion
We had the chance to meet with a board of 6 legacy Monsanto now Bayer scientists, who were all experts in varying parts of our project. This included entomologists, experts in protein design, and researchers who had worked extensively with Bt in the past. They were able to provide us with not only insight on our current project, but they also gave us ideas of how our project could be further developed next year, especially with further investigation of RNAi. They have since reached out with resources for modelling and further research, which will help to shape our focus next year.