Faculty Highlights

Dr. John Peterson DPM Newsletter Spring 2017

Dr. John Peterson received his B.S. in Horticulture and Plant Science from the University of Rhode Island and his Ph.D. in Horticulture and Plant Physiology from Rutgers University. Dr. Peterson is a Professor in the UF Environmental Horticulture Department and the Director of the Plant Science Major at UF.
Before coming to UF he served as a Horticulture Professor, Department Head for the Horticulture and Crop Science Department, and Director of the Wine and Viticulture Program at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo. He has also served in many other positions including: Horticulture Professor at The Ohio State University; President of the AmeriFlora ’92 International Flower and Garden Exposition in Columbus, Ohio; President of the Massachusetts Horticulture Society in Boston, MA; President of Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding; CA; and Director of the San Francisco Botanical Garden and Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, CA. In these roles he has conducted research related to the production of floriculture crops and tropical foliage in indoor environments, plant nutrition and water quality, and research related to attracting students to majors and careers in plant science. Dr. Peterson first had the opportunity to come to UF on sabbatical leave and then decided to stay as a faculty member. He has been in his current role as Professor and Director of the Plant Science Major for 1.5 years.
In Dr. Peterson’s role as the Director of the Plant Science Major he works collaboratively with five departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to help coordinate an interdisciplinary educational program with these departments. The collaborating departments include the Agronomy, Entomology and Nematology, Environmental Horticulture, Plant Pathology, and Soil Science Departments. Since becoming the Director, Dr. Peterson has worked with the faculty, staff and students in these departments to revise and expand the offerings of specializations in the Plant Science Major. The new Plant Health and Protection Specialization will soon serve as a good pathway into the DPM program at UF. Other specializations that will soon be offered will also serve as pathways into advanced degree programs relating to agronomic crop production, plant breeding and genetics, native plant restoration and conservation, controlled environment plant production, plant pathology and entomology, ornamental plant production and many other areas relating to plant science. One of the goals for the major is to provide educational training and a four-year degree that leads to wideranging career opportunities in the plant professions as well as a pathway into graduate studies covering numerous aspects of plant science. Since there is currently a shortage of plant science professionals, Dr. Peterson along with collaborators in the UF Plant Science Major are also focused on raising awareness of careers in the plant science profession to prospective students. Dr. Peterson believes that the training of highly competent and capable plant science professionals is critical to the needs and challenges of our future world, and that the University of Florida is one of the most important places in our nation for that training to occur.
In addition to serving as the Director for the Plant Science major Dr. Peterson also teaches a Sensory Gardening course (ORH 2752). This course is focused on the important role of plants in our environment and human lives, as well as the links between plants and the five human senses. This course is often a gateway for students interested in transferring into the Plant Science major and is also a valuable course for students already in the major.
When asked what he most enjoys about his job Dr. Peterson replied, “The thing I enjoy about my job is knowing that I am helping to train the next generation of plant science professionals who will make sure that we are effectively caring for the plants in our environment and we are going to be able to efficiently, responsibly and sustainably produce the food plants and plant products that we will need in our future world. I’m really enthused about knowing there will be individuals working in my profession who will succeed me and do more important and exciting things than I have been able to do in my career.”
Dr. Peterson is supportive of the DPM program and currently serves as a member of the DPM Program faculty advisory committee. He looks forward to working with DPM students and hopes to be able to contribute to the program by enhancing the student experience in the DPM program. When asked what he thought about the DPM program, Dr. Peterson shared the following: “I believe the DPM program is a unique and special program and is offered at a great university. It presents an opportunity to have a very special and unique role in the plant science profession that is offered at very few other institutions of higher learning. This program offers in depth training and instills a wide spectrum of plant science knowledge that makes graduates of the program the ultimate and very best plant doctors.”

Dr. Carrie Harmon

Dr. Carrie Harmon DPM Newsletter Fall 2015

Dr. Carrie Harmon has been employed with the University of Florida since 2003 in her role as Associate Director of the regional project the Southern Plant Diagnostic Network (SPDN). In 2009, Dr. Harmon also became the Director of the Plant Diagnostic Center. Currently, Dr. Harmon serves as Associate-In Extension Scientist for UF. Her appointment is 80% extension and 20% research.

In the Plant Diagnostic Center, Dr. Harmon places priority on the extension clinic. Her daily duties include keeping track of samples from anywhere in the world, providing recommendations and identifications, checking in on research with graduate students, and organizing various trainings. Her passion for plant pathology and educating others lends itself to successful hands-on detection and ID workshops for extension agents and international groups as well as valuable lectures for graduate students. Each training oversees 9-12 people on average and occur three to four times per semester.

Additionally, Dr. Harmon facilitates two graduate-level courses and one professional internship in the PDC.

Dr. Jason Smith

Dr. Jason Smith DPM Newsletter Summer 2015

Dr. Jason Smith is the Co-Director of Emerging Threats to Forests Research Team, Associate Professor of Forest Pathology, and State Forest Health Extension Specialist at the University of Florida. Dr. Smith has been employed at UF since 2006.

The focus of his research program is to provide a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms and biology of interactions between tree hosts, pathogens, their vectors and the environment to reduce the impact of disease on trees in the context of global change. Current research focuses on: 1.) Exotic tree disease detection and management; 2.) Phylogeography and pathogenicity of tree pathogens; and 3.) Management of diseases affecting rare, endangered or relict tree species in a changing climate. In addition to serving as the Principal Investigator of the Forest Pathology Laboratory, Dr. Smith teaches several graduate and undergraduate courses and carries out forest health extension activities including advanced tree diagnostic services.

Professionally, Dr. Smith is active in the American Phytopathological Society, American Conifer Society, and serves as associate editor of the journal Forest Pathology.

Smith   Dr. Smith’s career combines academia and extension. The pursuit of these combined   interests stemmed from his enjoyment of the research/problem solving interface. Additionally,   his passion for education echoes in his extensive involvement at UF and with the DPM   Program. Dr. Smith has served on the supervisory committees of several DPM students,   including: Keumchul Shin, Don Spence, Carmen Collazo, Lacey Mount, Lanette Sobel, and   Greg Kramer.

In response to the question: “How would you qualify the effectiveness of the DPM program at training students for careers in academia and extension?”, Dr. Smith stated, “My experience has been that DPM students fare quite well post-graduation. I am amazed at the diversity of career paths that are available and how readily DPM graduates obtain these positions.” Dr. Smith also offers a few words of wisdom for his students:

“One must remember that graduate school is about more than receiving another diploma. To be successful, you need to really embrace your discipline and go beyond the minimal expectations for graduation. Try to take every opportunity you can to experience new things and acquire new skills.”

Dr. John Erickson
Dr. John Erickson DPM Newsletter Spring 2015

Dr. John Erickson is an Associate Professor and Environmental Agronomist at the University of Florida. He joined the Gator Nation faculty in the summer of 2007 after completing his post-doctoral research at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, MD. That same year Dr. Erickson became an Affiliate for the UF School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE). His post-doctoral research focused on wetland responses to elevated CO2 levels resulting from global climate change. Prior to working at the Smithsonian, Dr. Erickson completed his Bachelor’s and Ph.D. in Physiology within the Forestry Department at the University of Wisconsin.

Between his undergraduate and doctoral degrees, Dr. Erickson traveled to Florida Atlantic University for his Master’s degree. While in South Florida, he worked at the UF Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center (FLREC) on minimizing the environmental impacts of urban landscapes.

Many of the projects currently underway in Dr. Erickson’s lab involve reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture through the use of best management practices and crop phenotypes that increase fertilizer and water use efficiency. Specific crops of interest include sorghum, wheat, corn, peanuts, and turf.

Additionally, Dr. Erickson is an instructor for both Crop Ecology and Environmental Crop Nutrition. These courses are offered during Fall semesters and may be taken on campus or distance-based online.

Aside from his role as an instructor and his passion for scientific discovery through research, Dr. Erickson serves as the Supervisory Committee Chairperson for DPM students Kayla Thomason and Christopher Kerr. He is also a Committee Member for DPM Student Christopher Ferguson. When asked for his opinion of the effectiveness of the DPM program at training students for future careers in academia and extension, Dr. Erickson explained that he felt the program is quite interesting and managed well. He believes the program’s strength lies in its interdisciplinary approach, breadth of curricula, and intensive internship requirement. He also notes that it grants both students and faculty the ability to interact with one another in unique environments that might not exist with a more traditional degree program. This mentality echoes in Dr. Erickson’s advice to his students to get to know their professors and faculty members early in their degree program to establish a well-rounded and strong network for communication and future opportunities.

Dr. Kimberly Moore
Dr. Kimberly Moore DPM Newsletter Fall 2014

After graduating with her MS and PhD in Horticulture from Iowa State University, Dr. Kimberly Moore was first hired
as an assistant professor at the University of Florida in 1995. Currently, Dr. Moore is a Professor who focuses on teaching and conducting research in the Environmental Horticulture Department at the UF Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center (FLREC). Her continued efforts and successes in the horticultural sciences have resulted in the recently added title of Distinguished Teaching Scholar at UF.

Unlike the other faculty members DPM News has featured thus far, Dr. Moore serves the university and its students from one of UF’s Research and Education Centers (RECs). Twelve RECs, Research and Demonstration Sites (RDSs), and several other offices are located throughout the state to help provide extension level support and distance education to students, faculty, and the general public.

Since Dr. Moore was hired to teach courses catered to place-bound students who could not relocate to Gainesville, she felt that moving to Gainesville was not necessary. As the resident student numbers changed, Dr. Moore increased the availability of her courses online. With improved technology, she has been able to participate in meetings
statewide without leaving the office. This grants her the flexibility to manage her various responsibilities and collaborate with other faculty from the Plant Pathology, Wildlife Biology, Geomatics, and Entomology departments all within the confines of the REC.

In addition to her role as a Professor and her research responsibilities at FLREC, Dr. Moore serves as chair for the DPM committees of Greg Kramer, Director of Horticulture at Bok Tower Gardens, and Theresa Chormanski, Associate Professor for the Landscape & Horticulture Tech Program at Miami Dade College. She also serves as a member of the supervisory committee for Nicole Casuso. When asked to rate the effectiveness of the DPM program at training students for careers in academia and extension, Dr. Moore replied:

“I think that the DPM program is very effective. In my opinion, the internships and practical work experience are the most beneficial. Course work is great for the foundation knowledge, but actually working in an area of study puts the knowledge to work. For example, it is fine to understand nutrient uptake in plants, but a different set of skills to figure out which one is deficient and fix the problem.”

Dr. Nicholas Dufault
Dr. Nicholas Dufault DPM Newsletter Summer 2014

Since the start of his employment with the University of Florida in November 2010, Dr. Nicholas Dufault has been involved with several academic activities that complement his role as a university faculty member. Dr. Dufault is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Plant Pathology, responsible for Vegetables and Agronomic Crops. Additionally, Dr. Dufault is involved in the Plant Science Research and Education Units Faculty Advisory Committee serving as the immediate past chair. In relation to the DPM program, Dr. Dufault serves as the Plant Pathology Department Liaison. The liaison sits on the DPM faculty advisory council and acts as a resource which students can use to ask questions or address concerns about plant pathology related topics. The liaison also coordinates the plant pathology faculty in preparation of the plant pathology DPM comprehensive written exam which is offered every semester.

Furthermore, Dr. Dufault aims to help reduce losses attributed to fungal diseases of agronomic and vegetable crops through monitoring, research, and education. His extension work more specifically targets peanut, cotton, potato, and watermelon producers throughout the state of Florida.

“My program uses fungicide trials to assist with product selection and to explore new or novel management strategies and products. Our research focuses on increasing our knowledge about environmental factors that affect disease, and assessing pathogen population diversity through molecular techniques and fungicide resistance. Ultimately, my goal is to help producers make educated and sound disease management decisions that will save them time and hopefully money.”

A side from his extension appointment and traditional duties as a faculty member, Dr. Dufault has elected to serve as a committee member for several DPM students. Alumni that he mentored include Ken Johnson and Todd Leeson, while current committee involvements include serving as the chair for Christopher Ferguson, and as committee member for Wael Elwakil and Rebecca Barroco. His dedication to the DPM program and its students is reflected in his view of the program’s overall effectiveness at training students for careers in academia and extension. When asked to qualitatively rate the program, Dr. Dufault responded with the following:

“I would rate the effectiveness of the training from the DPM program very high. Students have multiple opportunities to not only learn about integrated pest management strategies and other systems approaches to plant health, but also get hands-on experience. This experience can be through internships at the University and/or with external employment opportunities. The knowledge gained from these hands-on experiences provides DPM students with a unique training and educational experience that can build effective leaders. I think there are many career paths in both industry and academia that require this unique education and skill set.”

Dr. Norman Leppla
Dr. Norman Leppla DPM Newsletter Spring 2014

When asked to reflect upon his personal involvement with the DPM Program, Dr. Leppla graciously agreed to provide our readers with insight about his professional background and role as an advisor for numerous students. He also shed light on a truly inspirational philosophy that illustrates his positive outlook on education and personal achievement.

“Steadily but almost imperceptibly, pest management has been transitioning to a new, exciting era that I can envision due to my 45 plus years in the field. Going fast are the days when someone could simply apply a series of broad-spectrum pesticides with minimal training and expect pest problems to miraculously disappear. Pest management has become too complex for that approach, requiring considerable education and technical training to be effective and sustainable.

This new era in pest management also was recognized by Dr. George Agrios, so consequently he founded the University of Florida’s Plant Medicine Program to satisfy the critical need for professional plant health practitioners, “plant doctors.” My professional experience enabled me to quickly get involved by serving as an advisor and mentor for many of the Doctor of Plant Medicine (DPM) students. This experience included B.S. and M.S. degrees in zoology from Arizona State University, respectively in 1968 and 1970, and a Ph.D. degree in entomology with a minor in biological sciences from the University of Arizona in 1972. I served as a research entomologist with the USDA, Agricultural Research Service at Gainesville, Florida and Weslaco, Texas, Chief of Methods Development and Associate Director of the National Leppla  Biological Control Institute, USDA, APHIS, in Riverdale, Maryland; and Director of the UF,   IFAS Research and Education Centers at Leesburg, Apopka and Sanford. I was honored to   serve as president of the Florida Entomological Society and be recognized as Entomologist of   the Year; be appointed chair of the Florida A&M University, Center for Biological Control   Advisory Council and adjunct faculty member; and be elected Entomological Society of   America, Southeastern Branch president and recipient of the Award for Excellence in   integrated pest management (IPM). I am a Fellow of the Entomological Society of America. In 2001, I was given an opportunity to establish IPM Florida to provide statewide, interdisciplinary and inter-unit coordination and assistance in IPM to protect agriculture, communities and the environment. As Florida’s first comprehensive statewide IPM program, IPM Florida encourages collaboration in advancing IPM primarily through research and Cooperative Extension activities. However, as director I soon realized the importance of an educational component and the Plant Medicine Program was a perfect fit. A considerable amount of DPM education and training is in IPM, particularly under the outstanding leadership of Dr. Amanda Hodges, current director of the Plant Medicine Program.”

Dr. Leppla has been an important figure in the lives of many DPM students. He has served as the supervisory committee chair or co-chair of: Javier Garces, Dan Sonke, Esther Dunn, Denise Thomas, Joyce Merritt, Rafael Vega, Kirk Martin, Ken Johnson, Tatiana Sanchez, and Christopher Kerr. He has also served as a committee member for other DPM students: Rajya Pandey, John Porter, Brian Jackson, Leroy Whilby, Brian Jackson, Heidi Bowman, and Alicyn Ryan. To each student, Dr. Leppla imparts this philosophy: