David Dalton receives NSF grant to study invasive beach grass

Associate professor of biology David Dalton has been awarded a Research in Undergraduate Institutions grant for $70,000 from the National Science Foundation to fund his research on endophytic nitrogen fixation by European beach grass. Michael Kahn, chair of the microbiology department at Washington State University, is a collaborator and co-author on the project.

European beach grass (Ammophila arenaria) is an extremely abundant species on coastal dunes in the Pacific Northwest. Dalton and his students have shown that part of the prolific success of this grass on bare sand may be explained by its ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. This ability, says Dalton, enables them to "literally make protein from thin air." This is accomplished through symbiosis with bacteria living within the stems and roots of the plant. This type of nitrogen-fixing symbiosis is novel for temperate grasses and might have substantial implications for agricultural grasses, such as cereal crops. The project also has implications for conservation biology, because European beach grass is considered a serious pest that displaces native plant communities.

The initial observations were made in 1997 by Reed thesis student Suzanne Fusaro. Three 1999 graduates-Sasha Kramer, Forest Kaser, and Nico Azios-have contributed to the project this year and are continuing to do so with extensive field work this summer.

Keith Karoly
Details on this work and other thesis projects can be found at http://web.reed. edu/academic/departments/ biology/professors/ddalton/ thesis98.html.

David Dalton joined Reed's faculty in 1987. Since 1989 he has had continuous NSF support, totaling more than $786,000, for his research. His previous work focused primarily on the biochemistry and molecular biology of antioxidants in legume root nodules. In 1997 Dalton was awarded funding from the Wind River Canopy Crane Research Facility and Forest Service Experiment Station for a research project on antioxidant defenses in Pacific Northwest conifers.

Buhler named to post at MSRI for 1999-2001

Joe Buhler '72, professor of mathematics, has been named deputy director of the Math-ematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI), in Berkeley, California, for a two-year term beginning July 1999. Buhler, who was a researcher in residence at MSRI during the 1986-87 academic year, will return to Reed for the fall 2001 semester.

MSRI is a center for research in the mathematical sciences; it is sponsored by 37 different universities around the country and supported by extensive government funding. Its primary mission is to further research through major programs of a semester or a year. The deputy director is responsible for the administration and nurturing of present and future programs, including recruiting and hiring postdocs and other attendees.

Buhler's work in mathematics has its roots in algebraic number theory, but also includes algebra and combinatorics as well as computational aspects of all of those areas. He has written more than 30 papers and two research monographs, and he organized the first Pacific Northwest Number Theory conference at Reed and the third Algorithmic Number Theory conference last summer, also at Reed. Buhler has been a member of the Reed faculty since 1980.

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