Two new forest health faculty members hired at the University of Georgia

The Daniel B. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia is very pleased to announce two new faculty hires in the field of forest health.  Elizabeth Benton is the new Forest Health Outreach Specialist and will be based at Tifton campus starting June 2016.  Caterina Villari is the new Assistant Professor of Forest Pathology and will be based at Athens campus starting August 2016.  They join Kamal Gandhi, the Forest Entomologist on Athens campus since 2008.  A brief synopsis of their backgrounds and interests are as follows:

Elizabeth Benton has a B.S. in Biology from the University of Mobile and a M.S. in Biology from the University of South Alabama.  She will graduate from the University of Tennessee with a Ph.D. in Entomology, Plant Pathology, and Nematology (with Jerome Grant) this May.  Her Ph.D. work focused on a retrospective assessment of imidacloprid use in hemlock systems, focusing on efficacy and longevity of treatments and potential risks to aquatic systems.  Elizabeth has a strong background in pesticide and environmental risk assessment, and integrated pest management along with outreach activities from K-12 to working with landowners and forest managers in the southeastern region.   

Caterina Villari has a B.S. in Forest and Environmental Sciences and M.S. in Plant Health Sciences and Technologies, both from the University of Florence.  She received her Ph.D. in Crop Science, Plant Protection Curriculum from the University of Padua, and did her postdoctoral work at the Ohio State University (with Pierluigi Bonello). Caterina’s main scientific interests are the interactions among trees, fungal pathogens and insect herbivores, and related chemical ecology aspects. She worked with the mechanisms of ash resistance to emerald ash borer, and with the use of vibrational spectroscopy for the rapid identification of trees resistant to invasive pathogens. In addition, she developed a quantitative molecular diagnostic assay for the detection of airborne fungal inoculum in turf ecosystems.  In the course of her career, she has developed skills that range from metabolomic to molecular analyses, becoming familiar with chromatography and mass spectrometry, and with innovative diagnostic tools such as LAMP (loop mediated isothermal amplification).

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