Post provided by Adrian Monthony

To celebrate UK Pride Month, the British Ecological Society journal blogs are posting a ‘Rainbow Research’ series, which aims to promote visibility of STEM researchers from the LGBTQ+ community. Each post will be connected to a theme represented by one of the colours shown in the Progress Pride flag. In this post, Adrian Monthony discusses his Cannabis tissue culture research under the Progress Pride flag theme of ‘Harmony’.

About Adrian

My name is Adrian Monthony, I’m the proud plant parent of dozens of houseplants at my home in Guelph, Canada and the co-parent (along with my colleagues) of hundreds of Cannabis plants used for research at the University of Guelph, where I am currently completing my MSc. If I could have any superpower it would be to be able to speak every language in the world, so that I could communicate with anyone I encountered. I’m working towards that: I speak French, English, German and Italian, four languages down and a long way to go! Keeping with the theme of communication, science communication is a current passion of mine, especially using SciComm to promote visibility of LGBTQ+ scientists. An ideal day off from work during the pandemic would start with an espresso and a pastry out in my garden. After which I would spend a few hours tending to my vegetable garden before lunch. After lunch, I’d have a nap and then catch up with some friends on the phone before cooking dinner with my own home-grown produce!  

Adrian’s Research

As I eluded to, I study Cannabis sativa.  Specifically, I study the growth of Cannabis in tissue culture. Tissue culture systems are indoor, sterile growth systems where plants grow in a nutrient gel. This gives researchers an extreme amount of control over most factors affecting plant growth, cutting out all the complicating factors in a greenhouse and making it easier to ask ourselves questions like: “what does this plant need to grow well?” and “how does this plant develop?”. Tissue culture is remarkable because it has played a huge role in conservation of rare and endangered plants, but has also given us the high-yielding crops that help our growing population. I study the development of Cannabis and how we can use tissue culture systems to rapidly propagate plants. 

My current project focuses on understanding how protoplasts (plant cells that have been stripped naked of their outer cell wall) can be used to model plant development and I ask whether we can fuse two Cannabis protoplasts together, which would be a great plant breading shortcut. In the past I’ve done other interesting projects like tricking Cannabis flowers into growing back into full plants!

At the end of the day, my research is all about finding a harmonious balance between plant growth regulators, nutrient requirements and the other numerous (see picture) factors that control plant growth, so that we can produce the best commercially and medicinal crop for the end user.

Invisible LGBTQ+ plant scientists: a garden without diversity?

I think visibility of queer researchers is incredibly important and, from my experience, is sorely missing in my field. It is precisely the invisibility of other queer researchers in plant science that I would like to see change. To use a plant metaphor, it is hard to be a daffodil in a field of tulips.

The inability for me to see myself in a faculty position, or working in industry, as well as the underground nature of the LGBTQ+ graduate and post-graduate community makes the entire research experience incredibly isolating. I’d like to see this change in small ways: whether it is a pride flag or pronouns in your email signature or twitter bio, knowing you aren’t alone can go a long way. As members of the LGBTQ+ community we bring a diverse epistemological approach to our research and this diversity is valuable to science: a person’s life experience cannot be separated from their science.    

Find out more about Adrian’s research by visiting their ResearchGate, LinkedIn, and Twitter profiles.

Interested in contributing a post for the Rainbow Research Pride series? Find out more information here.