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Merkle honored by international forest research network

Dr. Scott Merkle

Dr. Scott Merkle has been recognized by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations for his research using somatic embryogenesis to propagate trees.

IUFRO is a nonprofit network of forest scientists that promotes global cooperation in forest-related research. Its goal is to enhance the understanding of the ecological, economic and social aspects of forests and trees. Uniting more than 15,000 scientists in more than 110 countries, IUFRO also recognizes the outstanding research contributions of its members.

Merkle was honored late last year at a meeting in La Plata, Argentina, for his “outstanding contributions by his scientific endeavors in the vegetative propagation of trees, especially somatic embryogenesis in hardwoods.”

“I have been attending this IUFRO vegetative propagation working group meeting since the first one in 2010 and have become good friends with scientists from all over the world who work in this field.  It is really great to be honored by my fellow scientists this way,” said Merkle.

Merkle’s lab at Warnell has focused on adapting somatic embryogenesis for mass clonal propagation and genetic manipulation of southern forest species. In this in vitro process, structures resembling seed embryos can be produced by the thousands in culture. These “somatic embryos” are clonal copies of each other and can be germinated to produce seedling-like plants called “somatic seedlings.” Originally the research focused on improving southern hardwoods and conifers for industrial and ornamental purposes, but over the past decade Merkle’s lab has explored applying somatic embryogenesis to conserve and restore threatened North American trees, including the American chestnut and eastern and Carolina hemlocks.

Most recently, Merkle has led research to develop embryogenic culture systems for green ash and white ash, which are being wiped out by emerald ash borer. 

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