Into the forest with the GSA: students learn about important pests and pathogens in Louisiana forests

On April 17th, graduate students from the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology and School of Renewable Natural Resources visited the Kisatchie National Forest to learn about tree diseases and pests that plague Louisiana. As a member Training/ Journal Club committee, Mary Helen was instrumental in organizing the trip. Mary Anne Sayer, Research physiologist at the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station in Pineville organized an active itinerary for the students. We learned about the import pine pathogens including, fusiform rust, annosum root disease, pitch canker and brown spot needle blight and hardwood pathogens including oak wilt, laurel wilt and sudden oak death.  Also, red heart decay in old wood pine forests provides habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. We went to the Palustris Experimental Forest where we observed symptoms of several of these pathogens in a 27 year old loblolly pine forest and a young long leaf pine sapling forest.

Checking out the diseases in loblolly pine forest and longleaf pine sapling forest.

Checking out the diseases in loblolly pine forest and longleaf pine sapling forest.

Finally we went to the Kincaid Lake Recreation area where we learned about the responsibility of the forest service to scout out potentially deadly trees in public areas. We also discovered the location for our future camping trip. Several people talked or helped out with the student’s visit including: Forrest Oliveria and Wood Johnson from the USDA Forest State and Private Forestry Forest Health Protection, and Brian Strom, Rab Olatinwo, Dan Leduc, Susana Sung, Mary Anne Sayer from the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station. Thanks to Dale Starkey and Dave Haywood for coming out of retirement to teach us about tree diseases. Students in attendance included Sebastian Albu, Jean Elbers (Renewable Natural Resources), Mary Helen Ferguson, Ally Lunos, Maryam Shahrtash, Rebecca Sweany, Deborah Xavier-Mis (research associate) and Huijing Zhu. All of the students are grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the health of our forests and to tromp around in the woods. Thanks to all the forest service staff who made the trip a success!!

Fusiform rust canker on loblolly pine

Fusiform rust canker on loblolly pine

Dale Starky showing stump that is potential inoculum source for annosum root disease

Dale Starky showing stump that is potential inoculum source for annosum root disease

Brown spot needle blight on longleaf pine

Brown spot needle blight on longleaf pine

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Dr. Jan Leach visits graduate students and gives seminar

The graduate students were pleased to host Jan Leach as our invited seminar speaker April 15th, 2015!  Many of our students got an informal introduction to Jan at dinner the previous night.  We are especially grateful to Dr. Leach for spending a long day with us on the 15th that started at 7:30 A.M. and ended at 9:30 P.M. Jan shared her personal and professional experiences with us and gave us important pointers on how to make ourselves marketable and find jobs and funding opportunities.  Her main advise is to be flexible and broad in our vision for our futures and research topics.  We all had several opportunities to meet with her in a large group and in personal small groups.  Jan gave a seminar entitled, “Understanding durable resistance in rice” where she discussed using QTLs to identify important genes and promoters for durable resistance to plant pathogens.group pic with Jan Leach 2015

Following our seminar, Jeff and Mary Hoy hosted a pot-luck dinner that was enjoyed by many students and faculty members.  Thanks for the help of all the students to make this a wonderful visit and to the Hoy’s for hosting our pot-luck.  Again, thanks to Jan Leach for coming to LSU and sharing your knowledge with us!

leach potluck combo 2015

Pot-luck dinner at Jeff and Mary Hoy’s house.