Coffee Hour with Mark Guiltinan and Siela Maximova: Cacao for Peace: From Plant Genomics to Training Farmers in Indigenous Communities

Friday, October 20, 2017 - 3:30pm
Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m. The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m

Cacao for Peace

The Arhuaco are indigenous people of Colombia. They are Chibchan-speaking people and descendants of the Tairona culture, concentrated in northern Colombia in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The initial activities of the Cacao for Peace project are focused in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta area. Many members of Arhuaco community: men, women and children took part of the cacao pruning training organized by the Cacao for Peace team.

About the talk

Mark Guiltinan and Siela Maximova co-direct a program to study the molecular biology of cacao with the long-term goal of helping cacao farmers develop sustainable farms. Their work spans the gamut of the land grant university mission of research education and extension—from genome sequencing and functional genomics, educational programs for scientists from developing countries to hands-on teaching of farmers in cacao production methods—their program integrates multiple levels of the cacao production system. This talk will give an overview of the research program and focus on a specific program, Cacao for Peace, which aims to help cacao farmers in Colombia in the post-conflict era through integration of the land grant mission strategy.

About the speakers

Mark GuiltinanMark Guiltinan received a B.S. degree in botany from California State University-Humboldt, and a Ph.D. degree in developmental and cell biology from the University of California-Irvine. He pursued postdoctoral training at Texas A&M University, the University of North Carolina and inside industry, after which he joined the faculty at Penn State in 1991 as a member of the Department of Horticulture. His research has explored the molecular basis of plant development and applications of plant science to crop improvement with funding from the US Deptartment of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the Gates Foundation, USDA, and from industry sponsors. He has been the director of the Penn State Endowment for the Molecular Biology of Cacao since 1995, chairman of the International Group for the Genetic Improvement of Cacao since 2003 and serves as director of the Plant Science Center of the Penn State Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. Guiltinan teaches undergraduates and graduates in plant biotechnology and plant science research and has hosted visiting scientists from cocoa producing countries such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Brazil and Malaysia.  Visit Recently Guiltinan participated in the sequencing of the cocoa genome, which as revolutionized the field of cocoa improvement for enhanced disease resistance, yield and quality. He recently started a focus group at Penn State: The Council on Agricultural Innovation: Scientific, Ethical, Legal, Social Issues (CAI-SELSI), which brings together faculty with a shared interests to understand how advanced methods of agriculture can provide substantial economic and nutritional benefits, while simultaneously reducing risks to the environment and human health generated by traditional agricultural practices.

Siela MaximovaSiela Maximova, Ph.D., is a senior scientist and professor of horticulture in the Department of Plant Science at Penn State. Maximova is the co-director of the Penn State Endowment for the Molecular Biology of Cacao. Her research is focused on molecular biology and biotechnology of Theobroma cacao L., the chocolate tree and other model plants. Maximova conducts research projects at Penn State and in cocoa-producing countries, funded by industry, private foundations and government agencies. Current projects include “Cacao for Peace” in Colombia and “Center for Innovation of Cacao” in Peru. She has also worked on projects in Eastern Europe, West Africa, and Asia/Pacific, and has been involved in large international multidisciplinary research teams. Currently she is the strategic research initiatives coordinator for the Office of the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education in College of Agricultural Sciences and also the coordinator for the undergraduate plant science: plant genetics and biotechnology major at Penn State. Maximova was named the Inaugural Henrietta H. Fore Women in Science Fellow by CRDF Global.

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