Texas Tech University

PSS students excel at regional and international conferences

Melanie Jackson

November 23, 2020

Plant & Soil Science students have been busy with more than just their school work. At virtual conferences and international meetings, students have excelled this year in research poster competitions, representing the university and department on regional and international stages. The successful completion and presentation of graduate and undergraduate research demonstrates the strength of our students, faculty, and programs.

Even the necessity of forgoing large gatherings in favor of virtual interactions has presented an opportunity for growth. A notable upside of the digital poster displays, recorded presentations, and scheduled question sessions was that the format's accessibility and flexibility opened new channels for deeper engagement and feedback from other presenters, conference administrators, and attendees.

"Though I missed the networking aspect of in-person conference format, I received a much higher volume of thought-provoking and detailed questions," PhD candidate Kris Petterson said of the 2020 Texas Plant Conservation Conference. "This was a wonderful opportunity and experience."

Plant and Microbial Ecology PhD student Kris Petterson

Kris Petterson, 3rd Year PhD candidate in Plant and Microbial Ecology

Texas Plant Conservation Conference

The Texas Plant Conservation Conference serves scientists, land managers, state and federal agencies, local governments, and other professionals with an interest in regional plant conservation. Attendees explore current research and conservation projects on rare plants, native plant communities, plant monitoring methods, and plant management practices for native Texas plants.

At this year's virtual conference, Kris Petterson – a 3rd Year PhD candidate in Plant and Microbial Ecology with Sharma Lab group – won Best Poster Presentation in the TPCC Student Presentation. Her poster titled "Endofungal bacteria isolated from mycorrhizal fungi in a North American terrestrial orchid," represents a valuable piece of her ongoing research, and – to current knowledge – the first report of isolation of endofungal bacteria from orchid mycorrhizal fungi.

Petterson cites project guidance, oversight, and mentorship from Jaspreet Kaur, Jyotsna Sharma, and Mary Catherine Hastert, as well as funding, support, and field assistance from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Watson Native Plants Preserve, Big Thicket National Preserve, the Conservation Committee of the Southwest Regional Orchid Growers Association (SWROGA), Joe Liggio, Houston Snead, and Shan Wong.

"Though I missed the networking aspect of an in-person conference format, I received a much higher volume of thought-provoking and detailed questions."

ASA-CSSA-SSSA International Annual Meeting

The American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America annually host thousands of scientists, professionals, educators, and students from around the world. The 2020 International Annual Meeting was offered virtually November 9 – 13, providing networking opportunities, oral and poster sessions, an exhibit hall, workshops, tours, student programs, distinguished lecturers, and a career center. Several Texas Tech students represented the university and their research findings in the undergraduate and graduate student competitions.

In the graduate student competitions, each participating organization (ASA, CSSA, and SSSA) delineates divisions within their society to represent field specialties. For the second year in a row, the CSSA held a Society-Wide Student Competition. A winner from each of the nine Crop Science divisions was selected to compete at the CSSA Society-Wide level.

This year, PSS graduate students Nathan Turner and Puneet Mangat were selected as representatives of their respective Crop Science Divisions, earning participation in this year's CSSA Society-Wide Graduate Student Competition. Division representatives presented a poster and a 5-minute rapid oral presentation to be judged.

The successful completion and presentation of graduate and undergraduate research demonstrates the strength of the Plant & Soil Science students, faculty, and programs.

PSS graduate student Jasmine Neupane earned a 3rd place award in the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) Student Competition. Neupane is studying cotton yield variability in relation to irrigation rates, soil physical properties and topography under the guidance of Wenxuan Guo.

Hazzel Ramos – Microbiology major in the College of Arts and Sciences - won 1st place in the undergraduate Soils and Soil Quality Poster Competition with her poster titled "Success of Commercial Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi Inoculum in Colonizing Cotton Roots". The research is part of a project with PSS's Lindsey Slaughter, Katie Lewis, and Glen Ritchie, and is funded by Cotton, Inc. through the Texas State Support Committee.