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Friday, November 2, 2018 - 12:15pm

Mercy College biology professor Dr. Peter Minorsky has been appointed to the Organizing Committee of the International Society for Plant Signaling and Behavior. The society serves the community of scientists interested in sensory plant biology, signaling and communicative ecology in plants.


Plant neurobiologists believe that plants are quite complex and sophisticated, much more than most people realize, Minorsky explains. These scientists are interested in the electrical activity and nerve-like signals in plants; the ways plants communicate with each other and with other organisms using chemicals; and how plants sense the environment and use that information to determine the best course of action — such as whether to keep a root growing straight or branch the root depending on the nutrition level of the soil. 


We’re even finding that plants have memories because they can alter their behavior based on past experience,” he says. “People are starting to talk about plant learning. Plants aren’t terribly smart, but they have some limited ability to learn.”


The idea that plants can communicate and learn is relatively controversial within the scientific community as a whole. This is why Minorsky sees his work on the Organizing Committee — and the work of the International Society for Plant Signaling and Behavior itself — as important: It’s important to maintain our identity. We’re kind of the rebels and the radicals, so it’s important that the sorts of papers that we promote in our journal and the types of presentations we promote in our meetings reflect this new sensitivity to what plants are capable of offering”


As a member of the society’s Organizing Committee, Minorsky will help plan the annual symposium — which is hosted in a different country every year such as India, Japan and France — and help determine which scientists will speak, lead sessions and present posters at the symposium.


Minorsky hopes his connection with the International Society for Plant Signaling and Behavior will broaden the horizons of his students at Mercy: “A lot of our students know very little about plants because they come from the city, and they don’t realize that you can make a living studying plants. So I think [that being exposed to the society will] open up doors for students and enhance their experiences.”