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POSTERS: Outreach and education

Secret relationships with serious consequences: Understanding the endophyte-tall fescue symbiosis
Amy Flanagan - Noble Research Institute, LLC. Nikki Charlton- Noble Research Institute, LLC, Carolyn Young- Noble Research Institute, LLC, Jason Wallace- University of Georgia, Frank Hardin- Noble Research Institute, LLC, Ginger Clark- Noble Research Institute, LLC

Outreach from the research community to the broader population can impact people of various age groups and inform decisions. We developed an outreach unit tailored to reach diverse learners from school students and teachers to agricultural producers introducing them to the inconspicuous symbiotic relationship of endophytes in grasses. Endophytes are beneficial symbionts that can improve forage grasses by providing protection to their host from biological and environmental stresses. However, these benefits can have serious consequences because chemicals produced by the endophyte may harm grazing livestock. We established a Noble Education Fellowship with the focus of providing science teachers with research experience and resources they can take back to the classroom. We feature an exercise revealing endophytes in common grasses using microscopes and cell phones to record findings. Technical aspects of this outreach unit can be adjusted depending on the materials and time frame available for a given group. For example, an activity from this unit has been implemented to demonstrate to agricultural producers the presence of endophytes inside tall fescue. This heightens their awareness of factors to consider when planting and maintaining fields intended for grazing. The learning activity can stand alone for outreach events or may be used as a component of a broader unit covering symbiosis with particular emphasis on mycology, microbiology or molecular biology.