September 28, 2012

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Sept. 28, 2012

In his new 'Plants Are Cool, Too!' episode, Professor Chris Martine explores an Idaho fossil deposit and the hunt for DNA that dates back 15 million years.

LEWISBURG, Pa. - Bucknell Professor of Biology Chris Martine is hoping YouTube can help share his passion for plants with the world. Martine, Bucknell's newly named David Burpee Chair in Plant Genetics and Research, recently traveled to Idaho to film the second episode of 'Plants are Cool, Too!' The Internet show, roughly about 15 minutes long, aims to draw people's attention to what Martine calls 'adventure botany.'

"Plants can be every bit as exciting and interesting as animals. But while it's really easy for young people to find shows about animals, there's really nothing out there like what we're trying to do," Martine explained. "There are gardening programs, there are programs that tell you what plants to use for cooking - but until now, there were no adventure botany programs that show you the coolest plants on earth."

In Martine's second episode of 'Plants Are Cool, Too!', which was just released, he traveled to a fossil bed in Clarkia, Idaho, where researchers are studying 15-million-year-old leaves, well preserved beneath the sediment of an ancient lake.

"As you can see in the video, we were able to hold the actual leaves that fell from trees 15 million years ago. They even retained their fall colors," Martine said. "Having access to actual biological specimens from the deep past allows scientists to do all sorts of otherwise-improbable things, from predicting atmospheric conditions to tracking changes in DNA over millions of years."

Martine's first 'Plants Are Cool, Too!' episode focused on Sarracenia alata, a carnivorous plant that uses a sweet nectar and self-produced narcotic to lure insects. The plant then digests the bugs in its stomach, very similar to how an animal's stomach works.

"It's a perfect example of what we're trying to highlight," Martine explained. "Most people don't know these types of plants exist, and we really want to raise that level of awareness. We want to show people how exciting botany can be and that, yes, plants are cool, too.'"

The next episode of 'Plants Are Cool, Too!' is scheduled to be filmed in January, and released early next year.



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