The world is at a crossroads: The human population has and is continuing to expand to levels that depletes the earth’s resources at an unprecedented rate and require enormous amounts of foods. At the same time, human activities lead to a steady net increase of CO2 levels in the atmosphere, thereby causing significant changes of the earth’s climate. This will make it even harder to produce sufficient food for the human population, as the severity and frequency of weather extremes already leads to decreased crop yields. Mitigation of climate change is therefore of utmost importance to prevent global catastrophe and human suffering at an unseen scale in the not so far future. Unfortunately, our entire global economy is based on carbon based fuels and it seems to be very unlikely that restriction of fossil based energy production and transport can be cut to a level that would be needed for an effective mitigation of CO2 level induced climate change. Engineering solutions for removing CO2 from the atmosphere are emerging but it is unclear how efficient and scalable these are. On the other hand, plants have evolved the capability to convert atmospheric CO2 into biopolymers and therefore represent distributed systems for carbon removal that are highly scalable. In fact, plant activity was the major contributor for the massive drop of CO2 levels that had occurred during the late Paleozoic era. Molecular plant biology and plant engineering therefore provide a way to optimize and enhance these natural capabilities and to allow for efficient carbon sequestration and therefore climate change mitigation and intervention.
Wolfgang Busch, Ph.D., Associate Professor
Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory, Salk Institute.
Dr. Busch’s work focuses on understanding which genes, genetic networks, and molecular processes determine root phenotypes. For this, his laboratory exploits natural genetic variation in the model plant Arabidopsis and uses a systems genetics approach that combines large-scale phenotyping, genome wide association studies, genetics, and genomics to find and characterize genes, their alleles, and the genetic networks that ultimately determine root growth.
Dr. Busch did his undergraduate studies in Biology at the University of Tübingen, Germany, he received his PhD in 2008 from the University of Tübingen, and received postdoctoral training at Duke University. Dr. Busch served as a group leader at the Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology in Vienna from 2011-2017, before appointment as Associate Professor in the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory of the Salk Institute of Biological Studies in La Jolla.
Date & Time
Wednesday, January 3, 2018, 5-7 PM