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Episode Details

series: Thousand Invisible Cords: Connecting Genes To Ecos

air date: 3/20/13 2:00 AM

Can an entire landscape be changed by changing one gene in one plant or animal? Thirty years of interdisciplinary research says yes, and this film follows the scientific journey that came to that conclusion. "A Thousand Invisible Cords: Connecting Genes to Ecosystems" is an eco-documentary that can truly change how we view the world. No longer will we see species as isolated members of ecosystems but as genetically connected members of a rich interacting community. In the words of the 19th century naturalist, writer, and environmental activist John Muir: "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken to everything in the universe." At the heart of the research is the beautiful and magestic cottonwood tree, which grows along the banks of North American waterways. The lush cottonwoods are central to the health and biodiversity of their ecosystem. Researchers have found that a small change in just a few lines of genetic code in this "foundation species" can have profound effects on whole communities and even entire ecosystems. These findings have inspired scientific collaboration as never before. Researchers as well as the plants and animals they study are artfully shown in the lab and in the field. Beautiful photographey and colorful motion graphics give depth to the viewers' understanding of the ground breaking new scienc, Molecular geneticists, ecologists, and restoration biologists are shown working together toward solving important environmental problems facing our world, such as: • How to manage climate change • How to restore damaged ecosystems • How to preserve biodiversity and • How to gauge the effects of new technologies on the environment.

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