Thomas R. Gordon – Full Professor
I am interested in the biology of plant pathogenic fungi and how they interact with plants. Most projects in my lab are directed toward pathosystems involving species of Fusarium and Verticillium. This includes wilt diseases affecting strawberry, caused by Verticillium dahliae and Fusarium oxysporum. Management of these diseases is achieved most effectively through genetic resistance, so we collaborate with plant breeders to identify and deploy genotypes that can sustain infections without significant reductions in yield. Another major focus of activity is on pitch canker, a disease affecting pines that is caused by Fusarium circinatum. This includes studies on the genetic determinants of virulence in the pathogen, and constitutive and induced disease resistance in the host.
Sharon Kirkpatrick – Senior Research Associate III
As a member of the Gordon Lab, I work primarily with Vertillicium dahliae on strawberries and Fusarium species on a wide variety of agricultural crops and Pinus species. Current projects include studies of host resistance and pathogen virulence using molecular techniques as well as traditional plant pathological assay methodologies. I am also the lab manager, assist graduate students as needed and direct the work of undergraduate volunteers, interns and employees. I currently serve as the Department Safety Coordinator.
Stephanie Slinski – Graduate Student Researcher
I am a PhD candidate working with Fusarium circinatum, which causes a disease of pines known as pitch canker. I am using cultural, genetic and genomic techniques to study factors affecting virulence of F. circinatum on Pinus radiata. One of my main objectives is to characterize the effects of monoterpene components of resin on the ability of F. circinatum to cause disease. I am also working to identify genomic regions linked to virulence.
Cassandra Swett – Graduate Student Researcher
I am interested in the ecology of disease resistance and the role of symptomless microbe-plant symbioses (involving pathogens and commensal endophytes) in determining the outcome of host-fungal interactions. My current focus is on the invasive pathogen, Fusarium circinatum, which causes pitch canker, a disease that affects Monterey pines in native forests, seedling nurseries and plantations. The objectives of my studies are to characterize the effect of latent infection on disease resistance and response to drought in seedlings, and to determine if symptomless infection represents a hembiotrophic state of the pathogen. I am also testing the specificity of systemic induced resistance in Monterey pine, and characterizing the potential for F. circinatum to colonize non-pine hosts.
Margaret Gullette Lloyd – Graduate Student Researcher
I’m evaluating the potential of 10 legume cover crops in supporting the development of Verticillium dahliae. in the absence of known hosts, cryptic infection may contribute to the persistence of V.dahliae in the soil. Fava beans, bell beans, Austrian field pea, Vetch (hairy, lana woolypod, common and purple), black eyed peas, crotolaria sunn hemp, and sesbania are evaluated based on root infection, systemic stem colonization and density of microsclerotia formation.
Greg Reynolds – Graduate Student Researcher
Hickory Decline Poster
My Ph.D. thesis research involves investigating costs and trade-offs associated with systemic acquired resistance (SAR) to pitch canker (caused by the fungus Fusarium circinatum) in Monterey pine (Pinus radiata). SAR occurs after initial infection with pitch canker, and SAR-activated trees are then more resistant to subsequent infections by F. circinatum. It is assumed that there are ecological costs associated with induction of SAR, but such costs or trade-offs have not yet been identified in this system. I will quantify the impact of SAR on growth rate in Monterey pine and the impact of various numbers of pitch canker infections on induction of SAR. I am also conducting a demographic study of the Monterey pine host in its native range. Mathematical models will be developed from these data using R. My background is in agronomy and remote sensing; I conducted my M.S. research on remote sensing for assessing severity of Rhizoctonia crown and root rot in sugar beet (Beta vulgaris).