New Horizons in Science

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A pathogen hunter flies into African dust plumes

Topic: Plant Pathology
satelite image of sandstorm plume over Africa
Monday, November 4, 2013 -
10:30am to 11:15am
Century Ballroom A

Each summer, huge atmospheric plumes from African dust storms dump some 50 million metric tons of dust on the state of Florida before spreading through the eastern U.S. The plumes bring with them spores and microbes scoured from the agricultural lands of the Sahel. Many plant and animal pathogens have been found in the dust, but only sparse sampling is possible on land. So plant pathologist Andrew Schuerger is taking to the air. This summer, Schuerger and his colleagues are making the first high-altitude flights with DART, a detector that can be quickly strapped to the underside of a jet or airplane wing and flown into a dust plume as it approaches across the Atlantic Ocean. Ultimately he envisions an early-warning system to reduce risks to people, animals and crops exposed to the dust.


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