UTAH PESTS Staff
Utah Plant Pest Diagnostic Lab
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UTAH PESTS Team Welcomes New Faculty
After more than a year without an extension plant pathologist and turf/field crop entomologist, we are pleased to announce that these two key positions in our Utah Pests group have been filled. We welcome Claudia Nischwitz (plant pathology) and Ricardo Ramirez (entomology) to the team.
Claudia Nischwitz joined the Department of Biology at USU as Extension Plant Pathologist August 1. She grew up in a small town near Heidelberg, Germany and after finishing her undergraduate degree moved to the United States for her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Idaho in 2005 where she worked on several projects with hyperparasites of forest trees. Following her Ph.D., Claudia held a post-doctoral research position at the University of Georgia Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton. She managed the virology lab and conducted research on tomato spotted wilt virus of tobacco and peanut, iris yellow spot virus of onion (identification of the origin of Georgia IYSV strains) and Pantoea ananatis, a bacterium that causes center rot of onion.
Before joining USU, she worked as a post-doc for Dr. Mary Olsen, Extension Plant Pathologist at The University of Arizona, on curtoviruses of beets and spinach and conducted diagnostics.
Her responsibilities at USU are all pathogens on all crops. Her current research projects are management of iris yellow spot virus of onion, management of fire blight on apple and pear, and identification and management of root-knot nematodes on turfgrass. She looks forward to working with growers, county agents, and golf course superintendents across the state. During her spare time Claudia enjoys hiking, traveling, and collecting fossils.
Ricardo Ramirez also started in his new position as Extension Entomologist on August 1. He grew up as a “military brat” in Germany, Alaska, and Texas. He received his Ph.D. in entomology at Washington State University, where he examined how biodiversity among soil organisms affected microbial control of the Colorado potato beetle, and how these interactions were impacted by cultural practices such as the use of green manures and organic fertilizers. Ricardo comes to us from Texas A&M University, where he was a post-doctoral researcher examining how defensive chemicals produced by cotton plants and insect predators interacted to improve the suppression of insect pests in cotton.
At USU, Ricardo will be continuing his work in field crops, and has already started collecting pest and beneficial insects in alfalfa for research in his lab. Ricardo will be working primarily with alfalfa, turf, and organic grower groups, however, his interests are broad and he looks forward to meeting and working with producers and county extension agents throughout the state. In his free time, Ricardo enjoys hiking and playing the guitar.
Featured Picture of the Quarter
In the summer of 2010, we saw some unusual insect activity, including a simultaneous, large hatching of leaf-footed plant bugs across much of northern Utah. In late July, we had reports of thousands of bugs on homes, golf courses, and natural settings from Cache, Salt Lake, Utah, and Wasatch counties. Many plant bug species use aggregation pheromones for overwintering and feeding, and it is possible that large aggregations of adults formed this spring, and that egg laying/hatching was delayed due to the cold and moist weather.
-photo by Marion Murray