Anatomy of a Plant Disease Pandemic
Chestnut blight disease ravaged American chestnut forests early in the 20th century, and naturally occurring biological control of the invasive disease-causing fungus is now helping to restore American chestnut here in New Jersey. Through a combination of field trips, exposure to laboratory methods, reading, and discussion, we will study a range of interrelated topics, including the ecology of invasive species, plant disease epidemics and control, microbial biology and genomics, and plant breeding for disease resistance. On the first field trip to a small American chestnut population in Monmouth County, we will see diseased and recovering trees in natural settings. A few trees will be georeferenced, sampled, and cultured in the laboratory. We will use and discuss visual and molecular methods to examine characteristics of the tree and fungus. On the final class meeting, we will visit Duke Farms in Somerset County to see a restoration project in which hybrid American chestnut is a component.