A team of biologists and computer engineers at Michigan State University, East Lansing have just rolled out a social media platform designed especially for plants. Rather than a forum for plants to give virtual thumbs-ups to cat videos, PhotosynQ is designed to bring together researchers, farmers, and anyone who has a passion for learning and sharing information about plants.
“We’ve built a platform that everyone can access through their cell phones,” says David Kramer (image left, courtesy of MSU), MSU Hannah Distinguished Professor in Photosynthesis and Bioenergetics. Inspired by the booming success of social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, Kramer and his team envision a parallel site devoted to advancing knowledge in the plant science world.
“We want to create a community that sees a 12-year-old student in China ask a question about a drought-resistant plant,” Kramer elaborates in an MSU press release. “Then we hope that hundreds of people answer, and not only the student in China is able to grow sustainable crops, but also a farmer in Africa could benefit from those insights.”
(Kramer demonstrates the plant scanner in action. Image courtesy MSU)
Kramer sees PhotosynQ as a way to broaden plant science research and make the field accessible to more people. The team is also selling a $100 handheld plant scanner that gathers key points of data about a plant and pushes the data to PhotosynQ via the user’s smartphone. The potentially massive influx of new samples and data could vastly accelerate the rate of discoveries. In the team’s best case scenario, the multitude of low-cost samples from all around the world will completely change the way that science is traditionally conducted.
To give the participants of PhotosynQ some initial inspiration and purpose, the team has already started up 20 different research projects. These range from measuring the productivity of beans to determining the efficiency of photosynthesis. Data for the latter project was previously collected from satellite images, which of course are less than ideal for fully understanding the processes the plants are undergoing. The emergence of an entire community interested in the project enough to send in high-quality, close-up data samples should move the project forward much faster.
This study was supported in part by grants from MSU AgBioResearch. For more information on the grants MSU earns with its outstanding research, peruse our free Funding Statistics report, below:
Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. pays a visit to Michigan State University each year for the East Lansing BioResearch Product Faire™, a life science event held right on the university campus. Make sure to mark your calendar for July 22nd, 2015 when we next return to MSU. Biotechnology Calendar is a full service event company that has produced on-campus, life science research trade shows nationwide for the past 20 years. We plan and promote each event to bring the best products and services to the finest research campuses across the country. If you are a university researcher or a laboratory product vendor, consider attending one of our on-campus trade shows: here is our 2015 schedule.