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Cat-Scan for trees?

March 18, 2013

Cat-Scan for trees?

On Barro Colorado Island, it's nearing the end of the dry season. As falling leaves drift to the ground, Mariam Trejos tips up her laptop to see a multicolored cross-section of the huge tree

“Please tap again. This data point has been recorded,” says a metalic voice with a faint British accent. The voice comes from a laptop on a camping stool next to a massive tree wired with a row of small nails cabled to white sensor boxes.

On Barro Colorado Island, it's nearing the end of the dry season. As falling leaves drift to the ground, Mariam Trejos tips up her laptop to see a multicolored cross-section of the huge tree. The dark color at the center of the figure indicates fungal rot in the tree's heartwood.

Mariam is looking for evidence of disease-causing soil fungi that penetrate the roots and infect the stem. Joined by field manager Javier Ballesteros and Moisés Pérez, the team has scanned more than 500 trees so far. Are some tree species uncommon because they're more susceptible to diseases than others?

This portable CAT-scan like device and subsequent DNA analysis of the fungi will help Stephen Hubbell and Brent Faircloth, UCLA, Greg Gilbert, UCSC, and Travis Glenn, U. Georgia report results of this 3-year, $2 million dollar study funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Watch the video: Please, Tap Again

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