Hello young scientists. I’m Dr. Universe and if you are anything like me, you’ve got lots of big questions about our world. Today’s special guest is someone who is really curious about plants and why they get sick—yes, you heard that right, plants can get sick, too. We'll also investigate some questions about pumpkins along the way. As always, kids can submit a question for a chance to be featured on a future episode at askDrUniverse.wsu.edu/ask
Ask Dr. Universes Podcast
Episode 12: Meet a Plant Doctor | Pumpkins
Dr. Universe: Hello young scientists. I’m Dr. Universe and if you are anything like me, you’ve got lots of big questions about our world. On this podcast, we’ll talk to some curious people, hear their stories, and investigate some fun science questions along the way.
Today’s special guest is someone who is really curious about plants and why they get sick—yes, you heard that right, plants can get sick, too. Let’s give a warm welcome to Lydia Tymon . Thanks for joining us today. So, when you were in 5th grade, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Lydia Tymon: In fifth grade, I think I was planning on being a doctor. You know, where I grow up I wasn’t really part of agriculture, so you know most people in my town were like dentists or doctors or finance people. I think I was kind of leaning towards doctor. I think that’s all I thought you could do with science. I kind of remain true to that doctor, but it’s just for plants rather than people.
Dr. Universe: There are lots of different plants on our planet. Do you have a favorite plant?
Lydia Tymon: Yes, I love potatoes. They’re fun to work with. There’s over 200 different cultivars. They are great to eat. I like working with potatoes a lot.
Dr. Universe: Farmers grow a lot of potatoes here in the Pacific Northwest. Some farmers also grow pumpkins. While we have you on the show, we were wondering if you could help us answer this question from Maggie in Woodinville, Washington: What are the strings inside of pumpkin? Some of them are attached to seeds.
Lydia Tymon: Yeah, so some people call them the brains of pumpkins and other people who call them the guts, but the technical term for all of those messy things in there besides the seeds are called “fibrous strands.” And so essentially what they are doing is they connect the pumpkin flesh to the seeds and that’s how the nutrients and water all kind of flows in and the seeds are able to develop and grow.
Dr. Universe: Oh I see, so it’s almost like a little food delivery system for the seed. We see this in other fruits and vegetables right? I’m thinking of peas, for examples.
Lydia Tymon: There’s a little stem that attaches the pea to the pod and it is called the funiculus. In a lot of vegetables there is something that attaches the flesh to the seed so it can get the nutrients it needs.
Dr. Universe: It’s really important the seeds have a way to get nutrients, especially it is because those seeds that will help make future generations of plants. Thanks for helping us with that big science question. Before we wrap up, we have just a few more questions about your work as a scientist. What kinds of items or objects do you use in your job?
Lydia Tymon: Because I am an applied plant pathologist, I have driven tractors, I do use computers regularly. I also spent a lot of time in the lab so I use a lot of molecular equipment like PCR machines and centrifuges, things like that.
Dr. Universe: That’s way cool you get to drive a tractor when you are out in the field and investigate different plants in the lab. Okay, here is our last question: Do you have any advice for a listener who might want to be a scientist one day—and maybe even become a plant pathologist like you?
Lydia Tymon: If they like to garden or they want to learn how to grow pumpkins, they should learn how to do it because that is the most important, is just looking at how to grow things. I think also just kind of being observant and looking around and seeing stuff. If you see mushrooms, look at them. Investigate them. Think about them. Maybe identify them if you can. Be open and adventurous and explore and you’ll see all kinds of stuff related to plant pathology.
Dr. Universe: That’s great advice. You know, you are inspiring me to do a plant investigation of my own. When I carve my pumpkin this season, I’m going to take a closer look at all the pumpkin’s different parts and think about how they work. Alright listeners, let’s give a big thanks to Lydia Tymon from Washington State University for joining us on the podcast. Thanks for joining us, Lydia.
Lydia Tymon: Yeah, you’re welcome, have a good one!
Dr. Universe: It’s trivia time. This trivia question is inspired by a question we got from Elijah, age 8, in Colorado. Dr. Universe: Where did the first pumpkins come from? Think you can guess? Do you have an idea?
Dr. Universe: Archeologists have found evidence that pumpkins originated Mexico --and they have even discovered pumpkin seeds in Mexico from around 7,000 to 10,000 years ago. In recent years, they’ve also traced the origin of some pumpkins back to the southeastern United States.
Dr. Universe: As always you can submit a science question of your own for a chance to be featured at AskDrUniverse.wsu.edu. That’s a-s-k-d-r-u-n-i-v-e-r-s-e dot w-s-u dot e-d-u. Who knows where your questions will take us next.