Streaming Science with Dr. Kevin Folta Created by Coley Hingson and William Weldon

Dr. Kevin Folta was the chairman of the horticultural sciences department at the University of Florida from 2007 to 2010. He is currently a professor working in strawberry genetics research at the University. He is also a published writer, researcher, and science communicator. His research led to the sequencing of the strawberry genome and his current work involved the reaction of plant growth to differences in light.
Dr. Folta has a lab at the University of Florida where he conducts his research with the help of several graduate students. Folta is currently researching the strawberry genes that dictate taste, color, size, and nutrients.

This is accomplished in three different ways. The first is by manipulating light into changing the way a plant develops. He has a state-of-the-art dark room that allows him to alter the bandwidth of light to which plants are exposed.

Each plant has a small cubby that is separated from all other sources of light allowing Dr. Folta to test many different bandwidths at once.

The second is through altering the strawberry genome to highlight the genes best suited for strawberry taste.

One of the graduate students assisting him in this venture is Chris Barbey. Altering strawberry genes can give them the ability to resist the diseases or insects naturally completely negating the need for pesticides.

Chris is a post-doctoral researcher specializing in strawberry genetics. He is focused on the genes that alter flavor and disease resistance.
The third is through synthetic biology. This is the use of newly created molecules that aren't found in nature to alter the way plants behave.

Improving how science is communicated to the public is something that Folta is passionate about, and he is able to use his experiences to motivate others. He says his goal is to counteract misinformation with facts and to provide accessibility to science. He openly responds to comments and concerns on Twitter and provides factual information when possible.

Dr. Folta’s research is helping create better tasting, more nutritious plants and is transforming the landscape of low-light plant development along the way.

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