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Phenomics data from IBC Greenhouse and the Compact Plants facilities integral to new publication

Authors Meng Li and co acquired datasets in both the IBC Greenhouse Phenomics facility and the newer Murdock-supported Compact Plants Phenomics system for their recent publication in the journal Nature Plants.

screenshot of article on Nature Plants website

This is a milestone as the first dataset collected in the Compact Plants Phenomics system to be published! WSU Insider published a news release

Phenomics at WSU featured in the MPS recruitment video

COVID-19 restrictions meant instead of hosting potential Molecular Plant Sciences program grad students to show off WSU’s research capabilities a new recruitment video was commissioned. Both the Compact Plants Phenomics Center and the IBC Greenhouse Phenomics featured prominently alongside Molecular Biology and Genomics Core, Franceschi Microscopy & Imaging Center and others.

Dominik Schneider is featured @ 3:55

Magnus Wood is featured @ 7:38

2021 NAPPN Conference

Dominik Schneider, Magnus Wood, Brian Bellinger and other WSU community members convened online with other plant phenotyping specialists for a few days of talks about cutting edge research. Common themes included advances in root imaging and moving beyond 2D to 3D phenotyping. Lots of exciting research to watch in this space! Check out the NAPPN website for more info the North American Plant Phenotyping Network and for updates for the 2022 conference.

Dominik hosted a video introduction to the facility and presented a poster about improvements to the CPPC operations and equipment.

Lemnatec Lunch and Learn

Brian Bellinger discussing usda phenomics instrument
Brian Bellinger discussing how the USDA uses Lemnatec’s tray-feeder Phenocenter

Washington State University – Pullman recently hosted a Lunch & Learn with Dr. Todd DeZaan, VP of Business Development North America from Lemnatec. Guests included both external and internal members of the WSU community who were interested in hearing the latest developments in the field. The afternoon included a multi-facility tour and demonstrations of both Lemnatec Phenocenter phenomics instruments at the Compact Plants Phenomics Center with Dr. Dominik Schneider and the USDA-run Wheat Research Greenhouse with geneticist Brian Bellinger

Learn more at Lemnatec’s webpage

Early Pilot Projects Yield Unique Datasets for Characterizing Plant Phenotypes

Since its inception in September, the facility has been running at near full capacity with various pilot projects to test the system and familiarize the staff with its operation.

Facility staff worked with researchers from three different departments across campus so far, including Institute of Biological Chemistry (IBC), Plant Pathology, and School of Biological Sciences.

min fluorescence, max fluorescence, quantum yield (YII)
An example of minimal fluorescence (left), maximum fluorescence (middle), and Quantum Yield (right) computed from the first two. The images were captured during the middle of the night while researchers were sleeping.

To date, researchers were particularly interested in using our Walz Pulse Amplitude Modulation (PAM) camera to measure chlorophyll fluorescence to determine photosynthetic efficiency in the context of various stress conditions. For example, postdoc Meng Li along with PI Helmut Kirchhoff of IBC were able to measure and process multiple fluorescence measurements of 41 plants a day, including protocols at night when the plants are naturally in a dark-adapted state to measure the maximum fluorescence and photosynthetic efficiency. This is particularly useful because it sets the baseline from which to compare daytime photosynthetic efficiency against. Plants naturally decrease their efficiency with higher light exposure to protect themselves from too much energy. Historically, capturing robust maximum fluorescence meant either staying up all night or disrupting the natural light rhythm for the plants. Li and Kirchhoff are interested in ion fluxes across the thylakoid membrane of the chloroplast under rapid and unpredictable changes in light intensity and how well their mutants can handle these conditions.



Timeseries of images showing differential growth of four plants from The and Tegeder.
Timeseries of images showing differential growth of four plants from The and Tegeder.

Graduate student Samantha The and PI Mechthild Tegeder, from the School of Biological Sciences, are looking at the effect of different stress conditions on amino acid partitioning in Arabidopsis. In preliminary analyses we can detect differential growth among different mutants under drought and salt stress conditions. This project highlights the advantage of the new facility – the ability to quickly and efficiently screen 168 plants for important phenotypic differences with minimal user interaction to identify the important mutations. The and Tegeder hope the data from this pilot study will help them refine their hypotheses and win funding from NSF for a larger study.

growth curves of various mutants
Plant area (sq mm) of different mutants under different stress conditions over time.

New Phenomics Manager

dominik_photoDedicated staff will help bridge technology and research

December 4, 2018

Dominik Schneider was hired in September as the new phenomics manager for the High-throughput Phenotyping facility. He comes to WSU after completing a PhD at University of Colorado Boulder that emphasized machine learning with satellite and airborne remote sensing images. He is excited to work with a variety of researchers to help facilitate novel experiments at a smaller scale.

Get in touch to schedule a facility tour and to discuss any project ideas at!

Phenomics symposium highlights new plant research facility

Plant PHenomics Sym pic

Studies in phenomics will help university be competitive in field

September 19, 2018

The Plant Phenomics Symposium celebrated the installment of the new phenomics facility in Johnson Hall on Tuesday.

The new phenocenter was secured through a grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust authored by Kiwamn Tanaka, Henning Kunz, Karen Sanguinet, Scot Hulbert, Zhiwu Zhang and Helmut Kirchoff.

The symposium, held in the PACCAR Environmental Technology building, was a partnership between the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, Karen Sanguinet, assistant professor for crop and soil sciences, said.

“The purpose of this event was to kick off the new facility, celebrate our grant and bring the local phenomics community together, as well as people from all over the country doing phenomics research,” Sanguinet said.

The Plant Phenomics Symposium featured speakers from the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, LemnaTec, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and other professors from universities around the country (Full Article).

Police, scientists hope to use drones for innovation

Law enforcement aim to employ drones in search, rescue events

March 29, 2018

Three local experts discussed how local governments use drones for science and public safety, as well as issues recreational users should keep in mind when operating on the Palouse on Tuesday.

Tony Bean, executive director of Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport, said when flying drones for recreation, it’s important that people look around where they are going to fly them. He suggested researching the legality of using a drone in the area and checking the distance between the drone and an airport.

“There is an app that you can download from the app store that tells you where you are,” Bean said. “It gives you recommendations on how high you should be flying, and also your proximity to the airport.”

Bean said there are restrictions for drones in certain places, such as near stadiums during football games.

“National parks, nuclear power plants and presidential travel — you are not going to have a drone anywhere around that,” Bean said. “If you are in Washington, D.C., it’s not a straight and shot, because of all of the temporary flight restrictions after 9/11. They can’t get close to anything.”

Pullman Police officer Alex Gordon said they use drones to protect the public and to gather visual information.

“Our mission is to enhance safety and life-saving measures through use of technology,” Gordon said (Full Article).

Camera reveals plants’ inner processes

phenomics cameraResearchers take hundreds of plant pictures, exposing their biochemical activity

January 25, 2018

Scientists rapidly take pictures while flashing lights at plants, hoping to gain a better understanding of how they function.

WSU’s Phenomics Center, on the eastern edge of campus, operates an imaging camera system that can collect chlorophyll fluorescence data from plants when they are exposed to fluorescent light.

The camera, suspended close to the ceiling, navigates a metal grid above tables of plants.

Only 1 percent of the energy is emitted back into the camera. What the camera captures cannot be seen with the human eye, but it provides important diagnostic information for researchers. The plants appear different in pictures depending on their photosynthetic activity.

Helmut Kirchhoff, Phenomics Center coordinator and assistant professor for the Institute of Biological Chemistry, said the data can show genetic characteristics and how the plant creates energy.

He said the machine first operated in 2011, and that this is the easiest and least invasive way to monitor energy within plants. Kirchhoff estimated the machine could take between 200 and 300 pictures of plants simultaneously, which allows researchers to gather information efficiently.

“WSU tried to bring this phenomics approach further on campus,” Kirchhoff said. “There are different efforts going on now.”

Kirchhoff said the machine is computer-controlled and can program certain protocols, depending on what needs to be extracted from the data (Full Article).