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December 2015
African Cassava Whitefly Project up and running

With more than 15,000 miles of annual road travel anticipated for each of our African partners on the African Cassava Whitefly Project (ACWP), the new Project vehicles being supplied for field work see the teams moving into top gear.

Pictured here is the first vehicle, which was delivered to the team at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), Uganda. Similar vehicles are being supplied to the teams at the Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS), Malawi, and Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI), Tanzania. All vehicles are for exclusive Project use, for team members and visiting scientists from partner organisations.

Genesis of a media star: stellar performance illuminates Whitefly story on world stage

For Laura Boykin, Computational Biologist and African Cassava Whitefly Project (ACWP) partner from the University of Western Australia, 2015 has been a hectic year. If ever a hurricane were to blow over the cassava fields of eastern Africa, its name would be Laura – not because of its destructive quality, rather to match the unstoppable force that Dr. Boykin represents. In addition to the great work that Laura is carrying out with her team on taxonomy and the systematics of whitefly species using genomics and supercomputing, Laura has taken the media world by storm.

Microscopic wasp magnified: award-winning close-up shines spotlight on new species

Anyone travelling down Euston Road in central London, UK, earlier this year would have seen a gallery of striking images bursting forth from the imposing offices of the Wellcome Trust, a biomedical organisation which funds research and supports the public understanding of science. These were the winning images in the 14th Wellcome Image Awards recognising the creators of the most informative, striking and technically excellent images recently acquired by Wellcome Images, one of the world's most unique collections, with image themes ranging from medical and social history to contemporary healthcare and biomedical science.

One of the winning images (pictured above) was created by Andy Polaszek of the Natural History Museum, UK, who is working on the taxonomy component of the African Cassava Whitefly Project (ACWP). The image is of a new genus and species of parasitoid wasp, Wallaceaphytis kikiae, discovered by Andy in the rainforests of Borneo, where the wasp's namesake, Alfred Russel Wallace, had collected more than 5000 new insects in the mid-19th century. Wallace is best known for independently developing a theory on evolution by natural selection concurrently with Charles Darwin.

Laura and TED, engaging audiences across the world

In this picture, Laura cuts a cool figure on the TED stage in Vancouver, Canada, in March 2015, as she prepares to give her talk on supercomputing, genomics, phylogenetics and the African Cassava Whitefly Project (ACWP). But looks can be deceiving, for she was not standing alone on that stage. With her stomach churning, Laura mastered her jittering nerves by imagining the whole ACWP team up there with her, taking strength from the dedication and hard work of her colleagues across Africa and the world, a constant source of insight and innovative ideas. As the red TED letters glowed, Laura’s outfit of pure midnight came into focus. The stage lights glinted on her grandmother’s Native American jewellery sparking Laura to think about her own inspirational family – especially her grandmother and mother – before making the connection with the cassava farming families of East Africa. “7,000,000 people need their story to be told,” she said to herself. Laura told the story, and a TED star was born.

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Copyright © 2015 Natural Resources Institute, All rights reserved.
The Whitefly Wire #1: December 2015

Queries to: Gillian Summers g.e.summers@gre.ac.uk

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