Gail Taylor

Gail Taylor, groundbreaker for women in the Department of Plant Sciences, awarded the John B. Orr Endowed Chair in Environmental Plant Sciences at UC Davis

Gail Taylor, professor and chair of the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of California, Davis, has been awarded the John B. Orr Endowed Chair in Environmental Plant Sciences. Taylor broke ground when she became the first female chair of the department in 2017, and is proud to be adding to the small number of women who hold endowed titles just four years later. 

“Because few women hold endowed chairs, even at UC Davis,” said Taylor, “I hope this helps inspire other professorial women to apply for awards like this one.”

The five-year endowment supports research and teaching in the area of environmental plant sciences and is intended to strengthen the internationally recognized research activities in this area on the UC Davis campus. 

“I am thrilled to be honored with the award,” said Taylor, “since the endowment is directly aligned with my own research on plants for food and bioenergy, and also in understanding how plants are adapting to the changing environment and how they will respond to future climate change.” 

Taylor plans to use the award to deliver three projects over the next five years that reflect the intent of the endowment. 

Firstly, she will bring together an international group to consider how green plants can be used to mitigate the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide. For example, the group will consider altered agricultural practices that optimize soil carbon retention, including the addition of biochar to the soil, and the deployment of Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage technologies to capture CO2 from the atmosphere. The goal is to help the agricultural sector reach net zero emissions of greenhouse gasses over the coming decades. 

Secondly, she will initiate an interactive virtual global graduate student seminar series, organized and run by graduate students, that addresses the topic of “Exploring plant adaptation and acclimation to the changing climate.” COVID-19 has impacted the world in many negative ways, but one positive outcome, opined Taylor, has been the democratization of science meetings where people from all across the world can easily meet and question speakers. 

“This science democracy is helping to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in our science deliberations and the new seminar series will bring together a global community. At the same time, the group will also be saving greenhouse gas emissions through less travel, which is to be welcomed,” said Taylor. 

Finally, the award will be used to investigate plant breeding for indoor vertical environments. These futuristic and innovative farming systems, which are a type of hydroponics known as vertical agriculture, provide significant potential in the production of cleaner, safer and more sustainable food to feed the planet.

The John B. Orr Endowed Chair in Environmental Plant Sciences was established in 2003 through a bequest from Orr, a glazier for UC Davis for over twenty years, who had a fondness for the university and a desire to advance plant and environmental sciences.

 

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