Ken Street is a 44-year-old Australian scientist, based in Syria for the past 10 years. Ken works at the International Centre For Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). Fearless and charismatic he devotes his time to scouring ancient villages and valleys in Central Asia and the Caucasus looking for rare and wild crop seeds. He is accompanied on the journey to Tajikistan by a team of gene hunters from Australia, USA, Armenia and Russia. Ken’s work is largely funded by ACIAR and GRDC.
In 2008, 27-year-old student Caitlin Byrt completed her PhD studying salinity tolerance in pasta wheat. Caitlin's research was part of a joint project between CSIRO Plant Industry, the University of Adelaide and the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics. She was based in the Crop Adaptation building at CSIRO in Canberra. In her project Caitlin discovered that genes from an old farmer variety of wheat were important in salinity tolerance. The variety of wheat that had these novel genes was from Central Asia, and the genes are now being used in breeding programs to improve the salinity tolerance of modern wheat varieties. The genes help to prevent salt from accumulating in the leaves where the build up of salt it is toxic and slows plant growth.