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The Austin Forum on Science Technology & Society

"Cyberinfrastructure to Feed the World"

COST: Free and open to the public



Improvements in agricultural technology over the last couple of centuries have led to enormous changes in society. In the developing world today, the average person consumes 25% more calories than at the start of the Green Revolution in 1960. This tremendous progress has come from many sources: improved irrigation, introduction crop rotation, development of new fertilizers, and breeding of hybrid species, just to name a few. But, there are ominous signs that such traditional techniques won't continue to provide the kind of year-over-year improvement in crop production that we have become used to in the last 100 years.

At the same time, the pressure to improve crop productivity mounts. Limited supplies of water, fossil fuel for fertilizer and mechanized production, and new arable land for agriculture combine with global climate change, population growth, and the explosion in the demand for protein in the diets of billions of people, put increasing demands on our ability to grow plants.

Somewhat surprisingly, the future of plant science and agriculture has turned out to be a computational challenge. Our new ability to rapidly delve into genomes and metabolic networks provides the potential for astounding new insights into how plants work, but the amount of data produced and the computation required in modern plant science is growing exponentially.

In this talk, Dr. Dan Stanzione (a computational expert) and Dr. Matthew Vaughn (a biologist) will describe The iPlant Collaborative, a large-scale National Science Foundation project focused on bringing high-end computing, data, and software resources to bear on the grand challenges of plant biology. In addition, they will cover the drivers in modern agriculture that boost plant productivity.

Dr. Stanzione is the deputy director of the Texas Advanced Computing Center at The University of Texas at Austin. He is a co-principal investigator for iPlant, and the principal investigator for several other projects. He received his PhD in Computer Engineering from Clemson University.

Dr. Matthew Vaughn is a research associate in computational biology at the Texas Advanced Computing Center. A long-time participant in the iPlant Collaborative, Dr. Vaughn joined TACC in 2010 to help advance biologist's access to high-performance computational systems and to advanced information visualization technologies. He received his PhD in Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.