From Systems Bio and Symbiosis to Nepovirus and Nematodes

There are perhaps a many as one million species of nematodes. Some parasitic varieties can grow to a meter in length, but most are microscopic in size. They inhabit almost every environment imaginable, from salt water to soil, and even human bodies. But it isn’t the symbiosis between a parasitic nematode like hookworm and a human that Danielle Tom is interested in, her research in the Department of Integrative Biology at OSU concerns a particular nematode called Xiphinema americanum.

51XyTEl0Y1L Despite the fact that nematodes cover most of the planet’s surface and there are probably billions of them thriving on the earth at any given moment, surprisingly little is still known about the worms. Xiphinema americanum, for instance, carries a bacteria specially designed to live inside it called Xiphinematobacter. Studying the evolutionary genomics of these species can help elucidate the phylogenetic, or evolutionary, history of both. This work is important to the United States Department of Agriculture, because Xiphinema americanum is a potential carrier for nepovirus, which can infect important crops like grapes, raspberries, and tobacco via these plants’ root systems, which the worm also exists in a symbiotic relationship with. This sort of an analysis, of an animal and its relationship to its environment at multiple levels of scale and with regard to multiple other species, is called systems biology.

Danielle works under Dee Denver, associate professor and director of the the Molecular Cellular Biology program (MCB), and she will be joining us on the show tonight at 7pm pacific time.

To learn more about this exciting research and her personal journey into genomics and biology, tune into 88.7 FM to listen, or stream the show live here!

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About Matt McConnell

Matt McConnell is from Midland, Michigan and received his undergraduate BS in Psychology and Philosophy at Central Michigan University. After graduating he spent several years in North Carolina. Most of this was at UNC working as a medical research lab assistant using mice as model organisms, but some of his work also involved cognitive research with Rhesus Macaques at a Duke University field site in Puerto Rico. Matt currently live in Corvallis, OR where he attends OSU as a graduate student in the History of Science master's program. He is taking Science Education as a related minor, with an emphasis in Free Choice Learning. His interests in History of Science and Science Education meet on the practice of Science Communication. Matt is currently co-host of the weekly radio show 'Inspiration Dissemination', in which graduate students discuss their personal journeys. Inspiration Dissemination is open to all graduate students and airs every Sunday evening at 7pm on 88.7 FM, KBVR Corvallis.

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