IALC Peace Fellowship Report
26 June - 23 July 1997
New Mexico State University
IALC Peace Fellowship Research Tour
and Follow-up Visits with Research Scientists
The International Arid Lands Consortium provides a broad base for the
coordination of activities in the field of arid lands research and management.
In addition to sustainable development, the IALC continues to support
and promote the Middle East peace process through its workshops and symposiums.
The Peace Fellowship Program was established to provide an opportunity
for outstanding undergraduate students to participate in scientific research
in host countries. This program links students with researchers from different
countries that are members of the Consortium. It is one step toward the
exchange of resources and expertise among scientific institutions. 1997
was the second year of the program, with four students selected as Peace
Fellows to research a variety of projects in Israel. I am honored to be
one of the students selected for this fellowship.
I was nominated as a Peace Fellow by Dr. James Fisher (Professor, NMSU)
and Dr. Gary Cunningham, Associate Dean and Director of the Agriculture
Experiment Station (NMSU). I was given the opportunity to view different
research projects being conducted in Israel before choosing a researcher
to work with. This experience was valuable in deciding which project would
best suit my interests and goals. Dr. Nir Atzmon of the Volcani Center
accepted my request to join his research projects during my fellowship.
My research opportunities included lab work and field experience in several
projects researching mycorrhizae fungi. The experiments in the lab were
chosen to evaluate mycorrhizae and pathogen interaction, as well as appropriate
media for mycorrhizae growth. Various mycorrhizae treatments were applied
to tree seedlings to examine how each enhanced root growth and shoot mass
in the presence of pathogens. Another objective of these experiments was
to determine if mycorrhizae inhibit the growth and progress of different
I was also given the opportunity to learn and implement techniques for
carbohydrate extraction and analysis from plant tissue. Because mycorrhizae
and tree seedlings form a symbiotic balance, these experiments were designed
to evaluate how that balance might affect seedling establishment. The
fungi encourage seedling establishment via enhancing root growth, but
at the same time use carbohydrates that may be needed by the young plants.
The carbohydrate analysis was designed to determine if any detrimental
effects may result from mycorrhizae treatments, or if the treatments correlate
a specific assimilate distribution in the plant roots.
I had several opportunities to participate in field work as well. We
spent one day marking trees in a forest for different chemical treatments.
The object is to find a way to prevent shoot growth from the root collar
after the trees have been damaged. It is important to maintain one main
stem so that the samples develop into trees rather than shrubs....I was
also given the opportunity to work with graduate students on their theses,
allowing me exposure to a variety of work with the same general premise.
This experience included field measurements (height and diameter) of seedlings
that had been planted under the various mycorrhizae treatments. Other
seedlings were dried and weighed to determine how mycorrhizae treatments
affect the root and shoot mass of pine seedlings. The preliminary analysis
showed significant difference between six types of mycorrhizae, as well
as those seedlings left untreated.
Another field experiment was being conducted at the wastewater treatment
facility near Tel Aviv. Several Eucalyptus trees were planted in drums
and irrigated with the effluent water. We took soil samples to determine
how well these trees remove toxic materials from the soil.
With all of this research, the basic premise is to determine how mycorrhizae
fungi can be used to aid forest establishment in the harsh, dry climate
of Israel. I found it very appropriate to my interest in forest management
and establishment, and it was easy to see parallels between the climate
of the Middle East and that of the desert Southwest in the United States.
My fellowship experience included much more than the research described
above. I met several knowledgeable people in the area of arid lands research
as well as students from several different countries such as Brazil, Argentina,
Turkey, Sweden, and Germany.. An amazing amount can be learned from conversations
with people, and the sharing of cultures is a great step in bringing the
communities of the world closer together. This may have been one of the
most valuable aspects of my stay in Israel.
I also had the opportunity to travel, and I have now seen Israel from
border to border. It is a highly varied landscape, both physically and
culturally....I was able to collect pine cones in a northern region of
the only remaining native forest in Israel as well as experience snorkeling
in the Red Sea at one of the northernmost coral reefs in the world. I
stayed in the close-knit community of a kibbutz and in the resort town
of Eilat. My residence for the majority of my stay was with a family in
Rehovot, Israel. A family stay such as this can demonstrate the cultural
differences between countries while illustrating the similarities of human
relationships. The variety of experience and knowledge has enriched my
life more than I could have imagined.
The Peace Fellowship also gave me the opportunity to form friendships,
and I appreciate greatly the chance to know Dr. Nir Atzmon. He was very
helpful with any problems I had and put me at ease from the beginning,
allowing me the freedom to explore my questions about research as well
as the cultural, political, and religious aspects of Israeli society.
He demonstrated complete confidence in my abilities, allowing me to participate
in important parts of his research. He always treated me as capable and
intelligent; as an equal. I am very grateful to have worked with someone
who made everything a positive experience. The fellowship was instrumental
in developing my independence and my ability to handle myself in a professional,
intellectual capacity. My warmest thanks go to those people who supported
me in this endeavor and believed in my ability to succeed.
- Mycorrhizae and pathogen plating
- Worked in maintaining cultures for future experimental use.
- Experimented with different media compositions to evaluate effects
on mycorrhizae growth.
- Tree seedling inoculation (Pinus brutia)
- Inoculated young seedlings with different combinations of six
mycorrhizae treatments and Fusarium pathogen to determine if the
symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizae inhibits pathogenic effects.
- Studied the relative destructiveness of three different types
of Fusarium on pine seedlings. Fusarium was grown on wheat and then
mixed into a sterilized media. 10 control seedlings were planted,
then 15 were planted with each of the 3 Fusarium strains.
- Attempted to determine the effects of different mycorrhizae treatments
on seedling drought tolerance.
- Carbohydrate extraction from plant tissues
- This experiment was conducted to determine the correlation between
mycorrhizae treatment and assimilate distribution in seedlings.
- Sugar Analysis: 100 mg of dried, crushed plant material is placed
in envelopes and then inside glass vials. To each vial, 12 ml of
80% ethanol is added, and the samples are incubated for 30 minutes
at 80°C (this process is repeated 4 times). The ethanol is then
evaporated off, leaving the extracted sugars and water. The envelopes
are then dried in the oven for use in starch extraction. The sugars
and water are readied for the centrifuge by adding 200 mg of coal
powder (to extract impurities) and balancing separate pairs of vials.
Once centrifuged, the samples are placed in test tubes and distilled;
water is added until the volumes are equal. The samples are then
frozen. Precise samples are taken form these original compounds
(0.3 ml for roots and shoots, 0.2 ml for needles) and added to enough
distilled water to equal 1 ml. Five ml of 72% sulfuric acid is then
added; the samples are boiled for 5 minutes, then cooled. Each sample
is then tested in the color emitter. The results can be converted
and used to give sugar concentration values.
- Starch Analysis: The dried plant tissue samples used in the sugar
extraction are removed from the paper envelopes and boiled. The
resulting extracts are also prepared and then centrifuged, and the
same process of adding sulfuric acid is used. The color emitter
is once again used to evaluate each of the samples. Problem...dirty
test tubes ruin your results, and you have to start over again!
- Dry weight measurements
- Several tree seedlings that had been planted under four different
mycorrhizae treatments, as well as control group, were collected.
The roots and shoots (including needles) were separated and dried.
These samples were then weighed to determine the difference in overall
mass that resulted from each of the treatments. There were significant
increases in mass for those seedlings planted with mycorrhizae fungi.
- Field measurements
- Diameter and height measurements were taken on seedlings planted
in the field. The goal was to determine the effect of imported strains
of mycorrhizae on oak seedling establishment.
- Soil sampling
- Samples were taken from Eucalyptus trees that had been planted
in drums and watered with wastewater before it was treated. Analysis
of the samples was to be done to evaluate the potential of Eucalypts
to remove toxic materials (heavy metals, excess nitrogen, etc.)
from the soil. Different soil depths were monitored for toxic material
content as well as microbiotic activity. Plant material was also
collected for an examination of toxic material concentration in
- Pine cone collection
- Dr. Gabi Schiller enlisted my help for collecting pine cones from
a presumably native stand of Pinus halepensis in the far
north. Both Nir Atzmon and Gabi Schiller are involved in a study
funded by a group in Europe to evaluate the genetic status of P.
halepensis in the Mediterranean region.