A Biologist's Perspective

Dr. Jennifer Tank, an associate professor and researcher at the University of Notre Dame, is familiar with the topic of Genetically Modified Organisms, particularly as the affect the environment and its ecosystems. Her research interests include nitrogen cycling and transport in streams and the impact of land use on ecosystem function.

Dr. Tank received her Ph.D. from Virginia Tech and did her postdoctoratal work at Virginia Tech and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
 She is currently working on research concerning the cycling of nutrients in the agricultural Midwestern. An important aspect of this is the novel Bt, or transgenic, corn crop. Eighteen percent of the area was planted with Bt corn, as of 2000. Because the Bt endotoxin is produced all over the plant, pollen and foilage may enter the ecosystem. The potential effects of these GM food crops on non-target species in aquatic ecosystems is not extensively studied. Her lab is studying the presence of the Bt-endotoxin in the food web and its effect on aquatic biota, or organisms in the immediate vicinity. The overall goal of her research is to "determine how agriculture and its associated by-products are altering food webs, energy flow, and ecosystem function in headwater streams" (Tank, 2010). Because this is such a hotly contested topic, Dr. Tank is unable to provide any commentary on this issue. She was kind enough to point us to a recent article concerning the pressure on young scientists. This issue is so hotly contested, that scientists doing fieldwork that concerns this is often criticized by large corporations intent on selling gentically modified seeds. Oftentimes scientists who are supported by these companies criticize the work of these impressionable scientists. We ought not let politics get in the way of science, especially when the research is not even being done with this issue in mind. Parties on both sides of this debate take inconclusive research and use it to promote their personal agenda. 

The second article is a study of headwater stream ecosystems by Dr. Tank and colleagues, about the spread of BT endotoxins away from agricultural field sites. 


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