Plant biologists to meet, confer award

Over 1,500 plant biologists and specialists are descending upon Honolulu this weekend for some serious science talk. The annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists will be held July 25-30 at the Hawai`i Convention Center, its sessions featuring titles like “The Plasma Membrane: A Happening Place!” On Saturday, Hilo-based scientist Dennis Gonsalves will receive an award from the group for his work in protecting local papaya crops from the devastating ringspot virus.

Gonsalves will receive the ASPB Leadership in Science Public Service Award, and will also give a presentation on his research. Gonsalves and his colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service are credited with developing an “enhanced papaya” that resisted ringspot virus infection.

The ringspot virus threatened to devastate the state’s papaya industry only five years ago, but the new papaya — now widely grown — is credited with bringing growers a $14 million harvest in 2001.

Gonsalves, who grew up in Kohala, is director of the U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center. He and his colleagues also received the Alexander von Humboldt Award for Agriculture last year.

The ASPB, founded in 1924 and based in Rockville, Md., has nearly 6,000 members, more than a third of them outside the United States. It’s dedicated to promoting the interests of plant scientists, including the development of plant biology research and scientific publishing.

The Plant Biology 2003 conference features five major symposia, more than 40 exhibitors and several workshops, exhibits, networking and social events.

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