“Cyberinfrasctruture to Feed the World”

Dan Stanzione and Matthew Vaughn
Texas Advanced Computing Center

Matt Vaughn

Dan Stanzione

Wednesday, July 5, 2011
5:45 p.m. – Networking Reception
6:30 p.m. – Presentation

Improvements in agricultural technology over the last couple of centuries have led to enormous changes in society. In the United States, technological improvements have enabled a shift from 75% of the population being employed in agriculture in 1870 to less than 2% at present. In the developing world today, the average person consumes 25% more calories than at the start of the Green Revolution in 1960. It can be argued that virtually all of modern civilization has arisen since the human race has had the ability to produce enough food to allow people to focus on some question other than “What am I going to eat tomorrow?”

This tremendous progress has come from many sources: improved irrigation, introduction crop rotation, development of new fertilizers, and breeding of hybrid species, just to name a few. But there are ominous signs that such traditional techniques won’t continue to provide the kind of year-over-year improvement in crop production that we have become used to in the last 100 years. At the same time, the pressure to improve crop productivity mounts. Limited supplies of water, fossil fuel for fertilizer and mechanized production, and new arable land for agriculture combine with global climate change, population growth, and the explosion in the demand for protein in the diets of billions of people put increasing demands on our ability to grow plants. Plant scientists work to understand and improve the yield of the plants we rely on most and to domesticate new food crops.

Somewhat surprisingly, the future of plant science and agriculture has turned out to be a computational challenge. Our new ability to rapidly delve into genomes and metabolic networks provides the potential for astounding new insights into how plants work, but the amount of data produced and the computation required in modern plant science is growing exponentially.

In this talk, Dr. Dan Stanzione (a computational expert) and Dr. Matthew Vaughn (a biologist) will describe The iPlant Collaborative, a large-scale National Science Foundation project focused on bringing high-end computing, data, and software resources to bear on the grand challenges of plant biology. In addition, they will cover the drivers in modern agriculture that boost plant productivity.


Dan Stanzione
Dr. Stanzione is the deputy director of the Texas Advanced Computing Center at The University of Texas at Austin. He is a co-principal investigator for iPlant, and the principal investigator for several other projects including: “World Class Science through World Leadership in High Performance Computing;” “Digital Scanning and Archive of Apollo Metric, Panoramic, and Handheld Photography;” “CLUE: Cloud Computing vs. Supercomputing—A Systematic Evaluation for Health Informatics Applications;” and GDBase: An Engine for Scalable Offline Debugging.” He received his Ph.D. in Computer Engineering from Clemson University.

Matthew Vaughn
Dr. Matthew Vaughn is a research associate in computational biology at the Texas Advanced Computing Center. A long-time participant in the iPlant Collaborative, Dr. Vaughn joined TACC in 2010 to help advance biologist’s access to high-performance computational systems and to advanced information visualization technologies. Previously, Dr. Vaughn worked at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory where he specialized in computational biology and bioinformatics pertaining to epigenetic gene regulation and genome organization. He received his Ph.D in Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.