Chory, Princess of Investigation Award: A solution to climate change was at first sight

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    Chory, Princess of Investigation Award: A solution to climate change was at first sight Photograph courtesy of the Salk Institute of the American biologist Joanne Chory, one of the winners of the Princess of Asturias Award for Scientific and Technical Research 2019. EFE / Joe Belcovson / Salk Institute (ONLY EDITORIAL USE)

     Washington, – The American biologist Joanne Chory, awarded the Princess Award for Scientific and Technical Research, always believed that the climate crisis is “an existential threat” for human beings, so she looked for a solution that, in reality, found “at a glance”: the plants.

    His audacity received on Wednesday a new recognition that, on this occasion, came from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and has shared with Argentina and also biologist Sandra Myrna Diaz, two women who, from “different fields” fight for the same cause, the salvation of the planet.

    Born on March 19, 1955 in the town of Methuen (Massachusetts), Chory graduated in Biology from Oberlin College (Ohio) and received a doctorate in Microbiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1984.

    After conducting a series of postdoctoral studies at the prestigious Harvard University, in 1988 he joined the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, where he did not hesitate to put a gap in his busy schedule to answer questions from Efe.

    QUESTION: Could you describe what relationship exists between plants and the fight against the climate crisis?
    ANSWER: My research focuses on the genetics of how plants respond to their environment. For example, what genes help them respond to light or dryness. I lead, as executive director, the Plant Harvesting Initiative (HPI, for its acronym in English), along with a team from the Salk Institute composed of Wolfgang Busch, Joseph Ecker, Julie Law and Joseph Noel. This initiative is a bold and measurable approach to combat climate change caused by the excess of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

    Q: How did you become interested in the problem of the climate crisis and how did you realize that plants could be a solution?
    A: Climate change represents an immediate existential threat to human survival. We need innovative, measurable and audacious solutions. The plant biology team of the Salk Institute was already studying how the plants adapt to environmental conditions and then we realized that many of the conditions we were studying -such as droughts, floods, the increase in the saline level of the soil- they were also related to climate change.
    It is then when we realized that a solution to climate change was hidden at first glance: in the plants that surround us.

    Q: Do you think plants can be the key to solving this crisis?
    A: Climate change is such a significant problem that we probably need many different approaches. At Salk, we want to be part of the solution.

    Q: Are you worried about the growing wave of deniers of climate change?
    A: The impact of climate change is evident and manifests itself through natural disasters such as fires, floods, droughts, the melting of glaciers, rising temperatures and sea level. It is evident that we have to face this urgent matter.

    Q: What will be the next steps in your research?
    A: The plant biology team of the Salk Institute has already identified characteristics of some plants that improve the supply of CO2 and genes that will help plants to store carbon, so we are very excited to continue our research in the laboratory.

    Q: You have just been awarded the Princess of Asturias Award, what does this recognition mean to you?
    A: I am deeply honored to have been chosen for such a prestigious award along with biologist Sandra Díaz, who is doing a very important job to preserve biodiversity.

    A: Know then the work of Sandra Díaz …
    Q: I do not know her personally, since we work in different fields, but yes. And it is an honor to share this award with her.
    A: Do you plan to attend to collect the prize in Asturias next October?
    A: Yes, my intention is to attend the ceremony. I really want to do it. (EFE)

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