Research Resident, Crop Protection Ecology
Blaze Johnson considers hot, humid central Florida the closest thing to home, although they say, “My family moved around so much growing up that they are more like home than any geographical place.” They graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Agricultural Operations Management. Blaze’s residency is in the Crop Protection Ecology lab where they research silphium’s resistance to generalist pests using fall armyworm bioassays. They also designed and conducted an experiment with the Perennial Legume Program to measure the composition of alfalfa leafcutter bees and native pollinators in sainfoin plots. As a result, they have spent many days in front of a microscope identifying insects.
What work experiences on your resume are most relevant to your position at TLI?
During a farm-to-table internship in Alabama, I became so well acquainted with the smell of tomato plants that the scent still invokes images of green fingers and sunlight filtering through fruited arches. I can look at that summer and see inklings of a community design that centers on food, relationships, and collective responsibility.
What would people never guess that you do as part of your role at TLI?
Over the winter I helped cross wheat, which involves taking tweezers to each tiny flower on each spikelet of a wheat head, and removing three tiny green anthers before they have a chance to produce pollen. After collecting pollen from a different, potentially uncooperative wheat plant, I gently apply the pollen to the wheat head I have de-anthered, being careful not to damage the ovary.
What were you like at age 10?
Somehow both rowdy and a bookworm, with an intense fascination for secret passageways.
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