WHO KNEW? COTTONWOODS HELD THE CLUE TO HOW THE GENETICS OF
New Documentary Airing September 5th on PBS Stations in Phoenix & Tucson
PHOENIX…August 20, 2012…Can a single plant or animal gene alter an entire landscape? Science now says “yes” – and a new hour-long documentary titledA Thousand Invisible Cords: Connecting Genes to Ecosystems traces the 30-year journey leading to this remarkable discovery. The program demonstrates that living things are connected in more ways that anyone thought possible. The Arizona premiere of the program will be Wednesday, September 5 at 9 p.m. airing on both Eight, Arizona PBS in Phoenix and on PBS 6 in Tucson.
This discovery presents a new and hopeful perspective on confronting the most important environmental challenges of our time. As nineteenth-century naturalist John Muir stated, "When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.”
This film takes these connections to a whole new scientific level by exploring the frontiers of ecology with one of the smallest biological units, the gene. “Just as the ‘green revolution’ has used genetics to help feed the world, community genetics can be used to help save and restore natural ecosystems,” said Tom Whitham, Northern Arizona University (NAU) Regents’ Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, and Executive Director of the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research in Flagstaff, Arizona.
The science behind the documentary began with the study of one tiny insect – an aphid. Aphids feed on cottonwoods, a fast-growing tree native to the banks of North American waterways. Whitham wanted to learn how a cottonwood’s genes affect its susceptibility to aphid attack.
“Sometimes there is a perception that curiosity about the working of seemingly trivial organisms such as an aphid is ivory tower research of no consequence,” said Whitham. “Yet, such research often results in the discovery of fundamental principles.”
A Thousand Invisible Cords, produced and directed by Dan Boone and Ryan Belnap of NAU’S IDEA Lab, features Whitham and other members of The Cottonwood Ecology Group, a team of internationally recognized scientists from NAU and other universities across the United States and abroad. They discuss their contributions to the new field of community and ecosystem genetics. For more information, visit the program’s website at www.athousandinvisiblecords.org or find it on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AThousandInvisibleCords.
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A Thousand Invisible Cords explores how a single plant or animal gene can alter an entire landscape. The documentary airs Wednesday, September 5 at 9 p.m. on both Eight, Arizona PBS in Phoenix and on PBS 6 in Tucson.
Photo credits: Northern Arizona University/IDEA Lab
About Eight, Arizona PBS
Eight, Arizona PBS specializes in the education of children, in-depth news and public affairs, lifelong learning, and the celebration of arts and culture -- utilizing the power of noncommercial television, the Internet, educational outreach services, and community-based initiatives. The PBS station began broadcasting from the campus of Arizona State University on January 30, 1961. Now more than 80 percent of Arizonans receive the signal through a network of translators, cable and satellite systems. With more than 1 million viewers each week, Eight consistently ranks among the most-viewed public television stations per capita in the country. Arizonans provide more than 60 percent of the station's annual budget.
Eight is a member-supported service of Arizona State University.