UCSB Scientist Proposes New Type of Seed Bank

Creation Could Help Understanding of Evolution and Climate Change

A UC Santa Barbara professor has teamed with a group of colleagues in publishing an article in the academic journal Bioscience in which she proposes a new kind of seed bank - one that proposes the gathering of wild species at intervals in the future in hopes of capturing evolution in action.

In their proposal, several U.S. scientists and Dr. Susan J. Mazer - vice chair of UCSB’s department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology - argue for the collection of many species in a way that evolutionary responses to climate changes can be identified, according to an October 15 press release from UCSB. Mazer, who specializes in quantitative genetics of plant life-history characters, calls her proposal the “Resurrection Initiative,” and notes that the seed collection could become an important resource that could be used for many different types of research in genetics and genomics.

Dr. Susan J. Mazer
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Dr. Susan J. Mazer

In contrast to existing seed banks which exist primarily for conservation, this collection would be for research that would allow a greater understanding of evolution,” the press release quoted Steve Franks, a Fordham University professor who also contributed to the study.

According to the Bioscience article, the only way that scientists can detect the results of evolutionary changes in plant life is to sample seed banks in a “repeated fashion”: they compare the attributes of gene pools that are sampled at different times to baseline attributes.

One way that we can obtain this baseline is by collecting seeds at a given point in time and archiving them under ideal environmental conditions, so that they all stay alive,” Mazer explained in the press release. “And [also] so that 10, 20, and 30 years down the road, we can compare them to seeds that we collect in the future to see how the gene pool has changed.”

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