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» Summer 2009

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I arrived at College Station Texas, the home of Texas A&M, on Sunday. The coming week would be filled with students and teachers all learning about plants. In particular this year the topic would be medicinal plants. Yes that would be plants that can help keep us healthy or used to treat us when we are sick.

I was here last year for a similar workshop, but this year we all wanted to not only get lots of questions answered by the students, but also to get them to do some blogging, podcasting, or film making.


One of the treats of the week was meeting Flora Delaterre – plant detective. As they would say in a cheesy old detective novel – her beat is medicinal plants. She has a radio show that is carried by stations around the country as well as a Web site ( where she talks about plants from around the world. Flora and I had a great time talking with the students. Later I sat down with Flora (a.k.a. Beth Judy) and the students to interview her for the Ask A Biologist audio podcast program. It should be out later this week so check it out on the Ask A Biologist Web site, or iTunesU (July 20, 2009 –

I never saw a book so large

Tagging along with the students for a couple of the field trips I was able to see and learn about some pretty cool things. While visiting the Cushing Library at Texas A&M I saw an old book that was half as tall as I am and the curator of the library said there are some books that are as tall as a person. You would not believe how cool it was to be able to sit in front of these really old books.


Two examples of the rare books in the Cushing Library. Besides seeing some amazing books, it is also interesting to note that these books are all made of paper which is a plant product. So you have some great herbal books that talk about medicinal herbal remedies printed on plant materials. You get the idea – plants are really important. For an inside and close-up view of paper visit another fun Web site called the Paper Project. ( A trip to the Paper Project will take you on a journey into the very heart and fibers of papers. Put on a pair of 3D glasses to really experience this amazing world.


Ivan and Jailene wearing 3D glasses from the Paper Project

Now I know why they call them hot houses

On another field trip I saw and smelled some amazing plants. Some we could eat and some could be used for herbal medicines. It was during a visit to the greenhouse at Texas A&M. The plants were cool but the greenhouse was hot and humid. I loved the plants, but I am not sure I would want to work there. I think I would like to be in a cooler place – like the Cushing Library. I also liked meeting the in-house cats that keep the animals from eating the plants. I heard that even raccoons can get into the greenhouse and cause lots of problems.

One of the cats is named Buffy because he is buff-colored. Buffy is so friendly he sometimes walks from the greenhouse and into the computer building next door for a visit. He does it so often the greenhouse keeper gets a phone call letting them know they have Buffy. Notice that Buffy has a blue tag with his phone number so those who find him can get him back to the green house and back on the job of mousing and roach hunting.

Buffy the cat - mouser expert

Teachers turned on to Podcasting

This year I had a chance to talk with the teachers about podcasting and how they could use it in their classroom. We had an informal workshop where we talked about using podcasts like Ask A Biologist as a learning tool and also how to make their own podcasts. I gave a brief training session on Audacity, the free audio editing software. With this short session I think a lot of the teachers could begin to build their own podcasts. We  also talked about a great resource for music that can be used free for non commercial podcasts – Magnatues (

Lots of great questions

The students all had great questions and have created some very cool blogs. Some will have videos embedded into them soon and one, Zulean, produced two wonderful audio interviews with local scientists. You can visit her blog, or listen to them below.

The link to Zulean’s interview with professor Micky Eubanks of Texas A&M.


The link to Zulean’s interview with scientist Lori Hinze of the USDA Cotton Lab.


All good things must come to an end

The week has come and gone. I really want to hear from the teachers. Mostly I want to hear their voice on their own podcasts. Now I am back in sunny Arizona. I also hope to see some more blog entries from the students and I especially want to see the videos online soon.

Many thanks to the Claire, Ethel, Toni, and the entire Texas A&M group for inviting me to participate. It is always an experience to remember.

Dr. Biology

Texas A&M contains a special place in its facility that not only adds to its wonder but its value as well. This place is called the Cushing Library. Located in the main campus the library contains “unique and irreplaceable books and objects” guarded by the infamous curators. You may wonder what makes a book or object so precious to receive the privilege of protection from a curator. The truth is they are many ways the book can fall under the category: age, originality, editions, content, numbers of copies, etc. In fact some artifacts can date back to the B.C era; others can reach the price of a million-quartile price, various books size your height, and BAM histories are untold.


Here you can see a curator from the Cushing Library demonstrating one of the many books it holds along with the work of a student who attended Texas A&M University in the 1800’s. Curators are very special having incredible academia background and dedicating themselves to keep updated and inform people with writing about a certain collection to keep it live

A splash of color…

Do you detest having to eat green leafy texture vegetables for healthy benefits and prefer swallowing those much faster vitamin tablets? Suffer no more I’ve come to your rescue with the help of Texas A&M Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Centers. There is information about to be revealed so grab a pen and write some notes.

Texas A&M AgriLIFE RESEARCH shared with me the nutrients certain COLORS of fruit and veggie could have due to its phytochemicals. Turns out to be if you just add more color to your diet including 5-10 servings of fruits and veggies you will be obtaining all the nutrients your body needs.

Drifting away from the topic I will like to share with you more of what this department does. Have you ever tasted the onion 1015 or seen it a grocery, have any idea what its origin is? Well this onion was actually created here at a Texas A&M lab. The potential science has reached onto humans creating a veggie is incredible. Not only that but now researchers can actually decrease the chemical in onions which make u cry. Aweeesome no more running mascara for me! Talk maroon carrot!

Amazingly Interesting

Texas A&M’s greenhouse is a beautiful place full of life and knowledge. Accompanying this great place is Monique Dubrule Reed- Hebarium Botanist and Sharon Banister Technician teaching us about all kinds of plants, including those beneficial to our health. Here Monique Reed talked about the different kinds of medicinal plants they preserve in order to research and develop new medicine. Plants always benefit us even without our awareness and here we learned the uses f plants in our every day life. Such as the pepper plant which produces our pepper; so common now days while in medieval time was worth its weight in gold.



Everyone half asleep at Cushing Library :D

Everyone half asleep at Cushing Library :D

I am really enjoying my stay here at A & M.  The first day we learned about the Chia pet, whoever thought some silly plant could be considered important. I learned that the seeds are actually edible and you can put them in certain foods to make them healthier. I am actually bringing some home to give to the rest of my family to try. We even created a poster representing the Chia, which was a little tough. The second day I liked because I had a nice tour of the campus, and got close and personal with Dr. Biology and Beth Judy. They gave me great advice and now I want to look into journalism.  We went to a greenhouse and saw the weirdest plants. One of them even smelled like lemon! I can now share some tips on how to pick the ripest fruit.  I went to Cushing Library where I experienced old collections of books or what you would call archives. Don’t make fun of me because I know it might seem boring, but I actually gained some knowledge and didn’t fall asleep like some of the people did. I hated the heat, goodness you get dehydrated too easily. Another are the dorms, I was sad to hear that we couldn’t go to our friends’ dorms, even though we did it anyway. The food was good the first two days but after that, I was getting tired of eating the same food and I never felt so full. My stomach will explode any minute now. I love the view of campus, everything about the area seems so peaceful and the people are nice.  On Wednesday it was birthday and my friends sang “Happy Birthday” to me four times!! We went back to the greenhouse to take pictures of flowers. Thursday was my favorite. We extracted our own DNA out of our spit, then back at the the dorm for once the GAs let us sleep late, so we watched Mall Cop, thats’ when we went crazy. We started having a picture frenzy, and had a pillow fight. Just when the fun starts I don’t want to leave. Please write back and tell me about your experience. See you around campus.





(P.S. Watch out for birds and squirrels they’re evil!!!! D:)



On one of our first field trips we went to the USDA DNA science lab. And when we first walked into the building there was all this old research equipment they use to use. Then we when into the lab, it was actually pretty cool, there was all this giant equipment they use for DNA. The lady started talking about the DNA of plants they did research on. We took pictures, videos, and pod casts. After that we got to look at our DNA!!! How cool is that!!! Then we just started to walk around the lab to look at all the different things they had. (But that room was very small and there were a lot of people). Then one of the GA’s said we needed to go so we wouldn’t miss the bus. 


      The next day we took a field trip to The Fruit and Vegetable Research Center. Where we got to learn how fruits and veggies help our bodies. Then we went into one of the labs and then my friends and me started taking funny pictures with the cameras. But then they brought out maroon carrots. (The Texas Aggies!!!) . After that we went to another lab and they talked about how they are trying to find a way to prevent cancer. But then we ran out of time because we needed to come back and write a blog. Which I just did for you to read. ENJOY!! 

The old equipment

The old equipment

Enjoy my blog!!!!!!!

Enjoy my blog!!!!!!!

Plant DNA!!! WOW

Plant DNA!!! WOW

Spitting into a tube for DNA

Spitting into a tube for DNA

Chemicals they use for research

Chemicals they use for research

Having fun hanging out

Having fun hanging out

fruits-and-vegetables-marlenegiselamalaina1This was the most fun for me. I got to eat fruit!      

Anyway, here’s a small video I edited. Enjoy!

Take a Look in a Book!


          While experience life in Aggieland, I had the wonderful opportunity of visiting the Cushing Library. It was filled with many books and archives from around the world; some of which contained many medicinal plant remedies found by our fore fathers and many other people from around the world. Sometimes we may take the books we use for granted because we think they’re sturdy but we don’t realize the generations and generations after need that knowledge as well. So the next time you’re checking out a book, think of the future.





From Oleanders to Passion Flowers


          As we explored the different aspects A&M had to offer, we visited their greenhouse, or should I say greenhouseS. Before we went outside, there was a spectacular garden with many different eye pleasing, beautiful flowers. The keepers of the greenhouses informed us of the uses and the harms of specific plants. As we went inside, we noticed that plants weren’t the only things living in there. We were surprised to find two, plump feline residents walking on the tables having a good ol’ time! Yet this wasn’t the most exciting part of the trip. The attendants of the greenhouse shared with us many stories, tales, and cures from and of the plants laid out for us. It was extremely informative and exhilarating. Now I know if ever I have a stomach ache to make some tea with ginger. And the pain will be gone.







Fruit Salad… Yummy Yummy!


          At Texas A&M, they have there own produce facilities called the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center. There they informed us about the importance of fruits and vegetables and the amount we need to stay healthy. They even let us have a portion of our daily need. Mmmm.  At the center, they not only create their own line of fruits and vegetables but they are doing many different research projects for many different reasons. One very important to the human race as a whole; cancer. In the labs, they are testing certain cancer cells with chemicals from fruits and vegetables to see if these certain chemicals contribute to fight cancer or prevent it. I don’t know about you but cancer is something serious to me and if these guys are trying to do something to prevent it, I’ll solute them. But not only are they trying to do this but they also create healthier and better tasting fruits and vegetables that are sold in stores. So the next time you’re in the produce aisle, check the price tag to see if it was altered by Aggies!


p.s. It is true that if you eat too many carrots, you’ll turn orange J





Plantain vs. Banana


          On Thursday, I participated in a case study with Dr. Linda and Ms. Elizabeth. They had us find out the differences between bananas and plantains.  This may sound like a regular Venn diagram but there was a little twist to it. They actually had bananas and two different types of plantain to let us make our own observations instead of making us read about it. This was not the best part though. Since Ms. Elizabeth was from Puerto Rico and we were already familiar with the taste of bananas, she thought it would be a good idea for us to taste a dish made of plantain that was native to her country. This food is called Mofongo and it is spectacular! We actually got to use our sense of taste to identify the differences between the two fruits. And I must say I’m a fan of fried plaintain. However, it wasn’t all about the food. We learned very valuable and needed facts about the nutrition values. And I thank you ladies for making that possible.





Shake Rattle and Roll.



          On Wednesday, we visited the USDA and there they showed us some extremely interesting things they do. They break down cell DNA to look at things beyond the green. They mainly work with cotton and its production but they showed us what they did in the labs as well. Instead of having to break down the plants manually, they showed us this machine that basically shakes swiftly to break it down faster and more efficient. We watched them do things and then they gave us a chance to try it ourselves. We even got to look at our own DNA. I won’t tell you how we did it, not because I’m mean, but I don’t want to gross you out. Lets just say we had a spitiful afternoon.





These past few days have been filled with different activities that were very interesting. On Monday we did an experiment like activity in which we saw, touched and ate Chia seeds. I thought it was pretty awesome and it was actually fun. Then, we had to do a poster board on the experiment. It was ok because ours turned out weird looking. Then on Tuesday we went to a green house and saw different types of plants. Some of them looked familiar, but others were completely new to me. Then, we visited a library and there, they stored books that were old or very important books. Although we all got kind of sleepy on that one, it was interesting in a way. On Wednesday, we experienced a new 3-D project.  It was really fun. On Thursday we went to visit a field with flowers in it. Then, we went to visit people who work with vegetation. There, we ate different kinds of fruit and we got to jump in an elevator, which was scary. We also made a commercial for GMOs and it was very entertaining because we added funny pictures (especially the one about Veggie Tales). Overall I think it’s a very interesting experience. I don’t know what else to write about…Well, I hope you have a great time. Then I sang the Veggie Tales theme song to you in class, but you were making a monkey face at me that looked like a Slender Loris. You know the animal with the HUGE eyes. I was paying attention on Wednesday, well kind of, because I was having so much fun with my buddies.   

                                                                                                            Your Friend,

                                                                                                            Faustina Martinez :O


Me with Prez Obama

Me with Prez Obama



We walked into a thirty passenger bus that took us to the Fruit and Vegetable Research Center here on Main Campus. As soon as we walked into the first room, we were given a powerpoint presentation. In the presentation, we were told how the different colors of fruit help you prevent different diseases and illnesses. After they talked to us about that, they brought in fruit of every color and allowed us to eat it. I honestly thought it was outstanding. We then moved into a lab where a scientist talked to us about how the university enhances onions and a while back discovered the purple(maroon) carrot.

            They moved us into another lab, where a student from the University of Texas who was studying fruit, explained to us how fruit may help stop cancer in the future. They were currently working on that as we walked in.

                                                                                                -Yolanda & Adrian




On the day of May-18-09 while I was visiting the campus of the University TX.A&M…And we went of on a field trip to the United States Department of Agriculture Research Service ,On our way over there it was hot  so when we arrived over there I was really happy because it was cold in the the building! Whe went in true a beautiful lobby were they had many things to look at, for example they had microscopes and many other stuff that seemed to be around for many years ….My favorite of them all was a beautiful horse that seemed to be made out of terecada! After we took a good look at the substances we went inside a small lab were we meet two scientific ladies, who talked to us about about what they do inside the labs. She explained the reasons they had such machines and plants inside the lab….Then after that she showed us how u can see an image of your DNA….She showed an example how to do it first u put in some of your saliva in there and then u would put some soap in it, after that you put some cold alcohol in there ….then u would have to shake gently so your material wouldn’t ruin. After that she gave us an opportunity to make our DNA wich was really exciting I enjoyed it very much! My DNA looked small because I didn’t put a lot of saliva in the tube, because to be honest I found that grose…Then the lab tech lady showed us the thing she does in the lab I found that very interesting because I had never seen such a thing, then she gave us  an opportunity to try it at first I was nervous because I hand never done nothing like that…so I wasn’t able to do it right but the lady didn’t want me to quit so she kept showing me how to do it …I appreciate that! But finally I did get it I did it correctly I was really happy “I felt like a real scientist”! After that we left back trough the lobby and back to wait for our ride to come pick us up but since it was so hot outside we decided to wait inside another building it felt more refreshing in there, We decided to sit down in there because we were tired…while I was sitting down I took a look around the building it was big and it looked nice it had many stairs wich I found that they were really interesting! After that we headed back to the University I was happy I got to see my DNA and got to do other experiments it was such a nice experience!