- What is your position at the USDA/OWRI?
I am a research plant physiologist at USDA-ARS and a core member of the Oregon Wine Research Institute. My expertise lies in plant eco-physiology, plant nutrition, and symbiosis with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF).
- What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy three aspects in particular: the freedom and challenge of solving mysteries relevant to real-world vineyards via the scientific process; my attempts to accurately interpret results and to convey findings in a clear and compelling manner; and working together with colleagues, students, and industry professionals.
- When you’re not working, how do you enjoy spending your time?
I like to hike, mountain bike, and explore the natural world. I also enjoy yoga. I can no longer run to get my physical fix, so I’m trying to find a new activity that is as convenient and expedient as running was without further damaging my feet. Now that our boys are on their own (mostly) and I am no longer coaching/refereeing/supporting their activities, Lori and I also hope to travel more.
- What inspired you to choose your career path?
As a boy, I was always interested in how things work. After I got out of engineering in college and started taking organic chemistry, I became fascinated with biochemistry and obtained my B.S. I worked as a technician for a couple of years after that and learned that if I wanted to have a choice in what I did as a scientist that I would need to get my doctorate. Becoming a plant physiologist at ARS was a subsequent combination of work, luck, and opportunity.
- What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Three things here. Be critical of your own work, and try to think of every other possible explanation for results so you can rule them out. And when required to get a job done, forgiveness is easier to obtain than permission. Finally, keep it simple; yes life is complex, but often the most elegant solutions are straightforward.
- Which three people (living or dead) would you invite to dinner?
Leonardo DaVinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Jimmy Page.
- What is your vision for the future of your research?
My vision is to better understand how various mineral nutrients affect both vine productivity and berry chemistry attributes to provide evidence-based guidelines for better management. At the same time I am interested in how AMF interact with grapevine roots, soils, and other soil organisms and influence vine metabolism. The ultimate goal for my research is to join these research areas into an overall conceptual framework that allows viticulturists to maximize quality and long-term vine health while causing the least harm to the environment.