RESEARCH AND DISSEMINATION
Conferences are a traditional means of communicating research findings and each year Kew hosts and organizes international meetings of strategic interest, such as this summer's Compositae and Chromosome Conferences. At the same time, computer technology is being used increasingly in all the research programmes to make Kew's expertise and knowledge available in forms that are useful and needed.
Systematics Biology Utilization
Above: Helichrysum mannii, a composite endemic to Mt Cameroon, flowering in the refrigerated tropical montane section of the Alpine House this year.
An international conference, 'Compositae: Systematics, Biology and Utilization', held at Kew (25 July to 5 August) attracted some 240 scientists from 48 countries, including many from Developing World and former Communist countries. Being a wide-ranging survey of a taxonomic group rather than a meeting devoted to a particular discipline or approach, it brought into contact workers who otherwise would not have met to exchange ideas and information.
The first week was a multidisciplinary and synthetic consideration of the systematics and evolution of the family and its major component taxa. The impact of molecular systematics and cladistics has produced a current state of flux in classification at these ranks. While some tribes, subtribes and major genera have had their standing reaffirmed (although sometimes with considerable recircumscription), it became clear that the recognition of additional taxa will be needed before a more powerfully explanatory classification of the family can be attained.
In the second week, more applied aspects were discussed. Major themes included the biology of invasion, relationships between hosts and insect predators, and biological control in weed management programmes. The medicinal use of Compositae, the technological and commercial problems in the development of new crops as sources of oils and resins, the improvement of the sunflower and its utilization, and the ecology and commercial use of fructans (the characteristic storage carbohydrates of the family) also emerged as important areas of current research.
Charles Jeffrey, head of the Compositae subsection in the Herbarium and co-organizer of the conference, retires this autumn after 34 years at Kew. However, colleagues will not be surprised if they still see Charles continuing his research in the Herbarium.
Contact: Charles Jeffrey (0181-332 5236)
The 4th Kew Chromosome Conference (30 August - 2 September) was hosted in the Jodrell Laboratory. It was well attended and highly international, with 182 delegates from 27 countries, of whom 115 were from overseas. There were 108 poster papers, and 37 oral papers (including four by Kew personnel). The programme recognized the unifying role of chromosomes in biology, bringing together scientists working on different kingdoms, but emphasized plant chromosome work, which constituted about 70% of the papers. The sessions had a strong focus on the science programmes in Kew's Corporate Strategic Plan - including Systematics, Conservation, and Economic Botany. This conference series has become the world's major gathering for plant chromosome workers, providing a unique forum to discuss all aspects of plant chromosome research, including some unfashionable and neglected elsewhere.
Above: Chromosome painting workshop
Never before have chromosomes been so colourful. Chromosome painting techniques, including those which Kew has played a leading role to develop, clearly have many important biosystematic applications. The Conference was followed (from 5-8 September) by a highly successful training workshop on `In situ hybridization to plant chromosomes - a practical introduction to its uses in biosystematics' attended by 10 participants from six countries, and sponsored by Kew and NERC.
Contact: Prof. Mike Bennett (0181 332 5322)
Email: Mike Bennett
Colleagues of Kew were saddened by the death, on 1 September, of Kew cytogeneticist Dr Ann Kenton. The Conference proceedings, to be published by summer 1995, will be dedicated to her memory.
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