By Heather Johns
LEWISBURG, Pa. — Animals have cornered the market on adventure shows. Crocodiles, snakes and honey badgers have gobbled up their 15 minutes of fame — not to mention sharks, which have a whole week of programming devoted to their awesomeness. Chris Martine, associate professor of biology at Bucknell University, thinks its time the world found out that plants are cool, too.
Martine describes himself as an "adventure botanist." He shares his passion for finding and sharing interesting, amazing plants across the globe in a web-based show. "Plants Are Cool, Too!" highlights the wild, wonderful and occasionally weird world of botany.
"It's really easy for young people to find shows about animals, but they can't find an equivalent type of programming for plants," 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."
"Plant Are Cool, Too!" also shines a spotlight on the botanists who are involved in the lives of these plants. "I see the show as a fun way to engage people and get them interested in the green world," said Martine.
The first episode focused on plants with stomachs (yes, stomachs.) In the latest episode of "Plants Are Cool, Too!," Martine headed to Idaho's Clarkia fossil bed to find 15-million-year-old leaves preserved between layers of rock.
"It's an amazing site," said Martine. "It qualifies as one of the most special plant fossil sites on earth."
Viewers of the 15-minute-long "Plants Are Cool, Too!" episode will get a glimpse of what the world was like after dinosaurs became extinct (about 65 million years ago) and before humans arrived (less than 1 million year ago). "It's a period of time we don't think about very often," said Martine. "It's a world that was warm and wet, and there were trees like we see in the southeastern U.S. all over the Arctic Circle, and big mammals walking around eating them. That whole ecosystem is preserved in this particular spot in Idaho. It's pretty cool."
Martine plans to involved Bucknell students in future episodes. He arrived at Bucknell in July as the David Burpee Chair in Plant Genetics and Research. "It will be a really fun way to engage Bucknell students in botany in a different way," he said. As for future episodes, Martine is scouting local locations for skunk cabbage and hopes to travel to Patagonia to find dung mosses.
Until then, viewers can watch the first two episodes of "Plants Are Cool, Too!" and share their questions and comments with Martine on YouTube, or tweet them to @MartineBotany. Adventure botanists are busy, but he promises to answer as many as he can.
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