Dr. Aaron Palmateer

Featured in: DPM Newsletter Summer 2016

Dr. Aaron Palmateer is an Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in ornamental plant pathology at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center (TREC) in Homestead, FL. TREC is located in an area with a 12 month growing season that offers opportunities to conduct outdoor research trials year round. TREC has a diverse faculty group conducting research on numerous tropical and sub-tropical crops. This environment attracts students, postdocs, and visiting scientists from all over the world, especially those from tropical climates. When asked about what it is like to work at the TREC Dr. Palmateer stated: “I really enjoy working at the TREC because of the diversity and daily interaction with people from other disciplines.”

Dr. Palmateer also serves as the director of the Plant Diagnostic Clinic at the TREC. Dr. Palmateer handles and diagnoses the ornamental and tropical fruit disease samples submitted to the TREC Plant Diagnostic Center. The Plant Diag-nostic Center at TREC receives mostly ornamental plant samples from nursery producers or landscapes. “The diagnostic clinic is a valuable resource for the clientele, but at the same time allows for me to keep direct contact with the industry and learn about new and newly emerging disease issues” states Dr. Palmateer. Before starting in his current position in 2007, Dr. Palmateer was a post-doctoral associate at UF who researched alternatives to methyl bromide. In this role he worked on monitoring soilborne pathogen populations such as fungi, bacteria, and nematodes. He also worked with a vegeta-ble seed company working with plant breeders to screen crops for disease resistance.

If you are a student working with Dr. Palmateer you will certainly be busy. Students in Dr. Palmateer’s lab (see photo left) spend half of their time work-ing on outdoor activities related to applied research and half of their time in the laboratory conducting routine diagnostic procedures for clinic samples or working with pathogens in culture. Students who work with Dr. Palam-teer are immersed in all aspects of conducting experiments. Students are involved in the following: experimental design, treatment preparation and application, equipment calibration, collecting and analyzing data, processing diagnostic samples, laboratory specimens, and cultures, preparing media for isolation and identification of pathogens, routine transfers of fungal and bacterial cultures, molecular techniques, DNA extractions, conventional PCR, gel electrophoresis, and sequencing.

Dr. Palmateer is supportive of the DPM program and DPM students. Dr. Palmateer serves on several graduate stu-dent committees including current DPM students Theresa Chormanski, Cory Penca, Lanette Sobel, and Ariane McCorquodale. He also served on the committee of DPM alumnus Eric LeVeen. When asked to rate the effective-ness of the DPM program at training students for careers in disease diagnostics, Dr. Palmateer shared the following:
“First, let me say that I’ve been very impressed with the caliber of students the DPM program attracts. I’ve inter-acted with many DPM students and graduates of the program and I always come away impressed with their broad depth of knowledge. I’m familiar with the DPM program of study and the extensive coursework that is required, which definitely helps build a strong foundation with courses covering agronomy and soils, horticulture, forestry, food and nutrition, entomology and plant pathology. This broad background is very useful for plant disease diag-nostics, but DPM students specifically interested in disease diagnostics should focus on mycology and fungal plant pathogens, bacteriology, virology and nematology. These “ology’s” along with coursework in molecular biology and internships in a diagnostic clinic are very important.”

Dr. Palmateer also shared a few words of advice for our student readers: “I think it is very important that students identify what they enjoy the most and focus going in that direction. People are often the best at what they enjoy doing.”