Ballad for Lorna

I love plants like teenage girls love Harry Styles. My friends—who turn the volume to blasting when Harry comes on the radio—patiently listen to me daydream about whatever my newest botanical crush is—mushroom music on YouTube, maybe, or air plants in the Peruvian desert. Someday, my friends joke, I’ll stop introducing myself as Sophia with a “ph” and start introducing myself as Sophia with a PhD. I laugh when they say this, but there’s a sense of trepidation about my future career I can’t shake.

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A New Threat in the Montes: The Legacy of Conflict in Colombia’s Agricultural Communities

“Everything had been lost,” read the transcripts. “We just had fear, fear, fear.”

In Pichilín, a small town in Colombia’s Montes de María, decades of violence have left lasting scars—and an unpleasant threat to the population’s future.

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A Glimpse of the Universe: A History of Lichens and Ourselves

Amorphous in their beauty, beautiful in their amorphousness, lichens run Mars-red and sun-yellow. Sometimes moldy, sometimes mossy, they bloom in delicate curls of green and gray. Those rusty stains on the sidewalk by your house, pale leaflets creeping up the tree in your yard, puckered cups between the slats of your fence? Once you know what to look for, they’re everywhere. But the public spotlight on lichens is recent compared to other species. In fact, lichens only entered the academic scene in the late nineteenth century, thanks to Simon Schwenderer, the son of a Swiss farmer. On a crisp morning in 1867, the fresh-faced Schwenderer, as the newly minted director of the botanical gardens in Basel, Switzerland, proposed a hypothesis that would change the biological world.

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abstract: biophilia hypothesis

Past-tense panacea: that is to say, sunlight dripping through tall savanna grasses of northern Africa. Two and a half million years ago, a face that was not so different from your face smiled through golden stalks. The earth was already older than there are atoms in your body, and it smelled thick and sweet with dew. The face had already learned to walk, to eat, to listen, to watch the sun rise and set. Somewhere between the grasses, her child cries out. The face directs the child’s gaze from the burning sun to the stirring plain.

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Understanding Evolution of Cladonia Lichens through Mitochondrial Genome Analysis

Emerging advances in the field of bryology indicate that some lichens may have prion-degrading capabilities. In this paper, correlations between prion-degrading properties and genetic differences were investigated in Cladonia lichens, with special emphasis on C. rangiferina, a prion-degrading lichen sometimes called “reindeer lichen.” Using multiple-sequence alignment and pairwise sequence alignment, six mitochondrial Cladonia genomes were analyzed for genomic congruency and phylogeny. We found that the C. rangiferina mitochondrion was not significantly genomically different from other Cladonia lichen mitochondria, nor were any phylogenetic anomalies found that might explain its prion-degrading properties.

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Serratia, Mi Encanto: How Biological Control Agents Can Mitigate Colombia’s P. cinnamomi Crisis

In Disney’s new film Encanto, Colombian singer Carlos Vives describes Colombia as a paradise. “Todos llegan para gozar,” he sings–everyone comes to enjoy Colombia’s bounty. Despites its relative prosperity as an upper middle income country, however, Colombia’s development has been lopsided. Its income distribution is heavily weighted towards the top-earning 10% of the population, who, as of 2019, hold 40.3% of the country’s wealth–leaving 42.5% of the population beneath the poverty line and 15.1% of the population in extreme poverty. Most of this poverty is concentrated in Colombia’s rural districts, whose populations mainly comprise small subsistence farmers. This places Colombia at seventh in the world for income inequality.

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