Tag Archives: plant health

People: Oregon bound and down; From the land of sun to the land of clouds

Brent Warneke

Brent inside the west cave of Monkey Face, Smith Rock State Park.

I grew up in Littleton, Colorado amid the suburbs of Denver. Although I was a suburb kid, I grew up gardening from an early age, which sparked my love for plants. Going with what I was interested in, I decided to pursue a degree in something plant related at Colorado State University. I ended up studying horticulture, but took a wide range of classes including brewing technology, microbiology, biochemistry and business. Throughout my time at CSU I worked in a couple different lab groups, one that studied biofuel production and another that was focused on cryopreservation of vegetatively propagated crops. Working in the labs got me interested in science. I took a plant pathology course my senior year and loved how it was an integration of things I had learned in horticulture, microbiology, and other sciences.

Eventually I obtained my BS in Horticultural Science and a minor in Business Administration at CSU. I had such a good time learning about science and working in labs that I decided to pursue graduate school. I looked at a few universities throughout the USA but the prospect of working on specialty crops (fruits and nuts) had me more excited than working on field crops. I ended up landing at Oregon State University in the Botany and Plant Pathology Department. The project I worked on had me investigating fungicide resistance and grape powdery mildew management and I was fortunate to travel to many vineyards throughout the state to take samples and work with growers. Over the course of my Master’s degree I was able to present data from my research at two national plant pathology conferences, one in Tampa, FL and the other in San Antonio, TX, two places I had never been before. These experiences were very useful to hone my science communication skills which I use a lot in my current position.

Brent at Glacier Lake while backpacking in the Eagle Cap wilderness.

After I finished my MS degree I started my current position working on the Intelligent Sprayer project at OSU with Drs. Lloyd Nackley and Jay Pscheidt. The part of the project I fit into investigates using the Intelligent Sprayer to manage grape powdery mildew with various fungicide regimes and investigating sprayer coverage in hazelnut and nursery crops. This has been a great fit for me as I have been able to apply what I learned during my MS and strengthen my research and writing skills. As with all agriculture, we come up with a plan every year and have ideas about how everything will go, but something always surprises us. During the season it’s always a push to collect all the data we need, but when the season is over it is very interesting to sit down, go through the data, and make graphs and connections as to how the treatments we applied fared. Writing up the data into informative reports, and in doing so, making connections to past literature while abstracting it into the future is another part of the process that makes me love what I do.

The 50 gallon air-blast sprayer retrofitted with the Intelligent Spray System connected to a Kubota M5-111 tractor that powers the unit.

I’ve been fortunate to live in two different states that are great for my outdoor oriented lifestyle. I grew up camping, fishing, backpacking, canoeing and skiing in Colorado. I have since gotten into rock climbing, rafting and kayaking, and hunting in Oregon, and especially love spending time on the Oregon coast. If I were to give some advice to someone following a similar career path to me I would tell them to always be open to opportunities and to get out of their comfort zone regularly.

People: A Career Path as the Crow – Or the Raven – Flies

Raven Hartley

I spent my childhood in western New York where my mom took us hiking, mushroom foraging, and taught us how to identify the deciduous trees around us. We moved to Oregon when I was 10 and not much has changed except the forests were now coniferous and we learned to brave the rain. My love of plants and ecology was sparked during these weekend trips as I learned how all organisms are interconnected.

Raven taking leaf measurement with a Licor-600 at NWREC.
Raven taking leaf measurement with a Licor-600 at NWREC.  

When I started my undergraduate degree, I had no idea what I wanted to do and jumped from major to major. After 2 years at community college, I transferred to Oregon State University and landed on marine biology. During this time, I had the opportunity to be a research assistant in Utila, Honduras for Operation Wallacea and lead scientific dives for PhD student Nadia Jogee. Through this experience I realized my love of problem solving that goes along with field research, but despite my enjoyment I felt that marine biology wasn’t quite what I wanted for a career.

Once the pandemic hit and I was suddenly home all the time, I started to collect house and landscape plants to improve my living space. I had a lot of fun learning to care for them and read up on nutrient needs, soil types, watering, pruning, and propagation. A lot of this information I found in extension articles that led me to the College of Agricultural Science at OSU. I now have research experiments that focus on improving plant care and management practices in nursery production systems.

I’m now in the last term of my undergraduate degree in Horticulture and am fortunate to have been in the accelerated master’s platform (AMP) for the last year, with Dr. Lloyd Nackley and Dr. Ryan Contreras as co-advisors. This program has allowed me to get a head start on my graduate coursework and field research with the support of my advisors and other faculty. I have gotten to learn so much in the last year from propagating cuttings, to finishing plants, best management practices, and so much more. I also get valuable lab experience working for Dr. Carolyn Scagel at the USDA-ARS Horticulture Crops Research Lab where I have assisted with tissue collection, water sampling and nutrient and data analysis to aid in her plant physiology research. My favorite part of research is getting to work outside to conduct experiments and getting to work alongside so many great and knowledgeable people!

An overhead view of Raven’s project on container grown oak trees at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center (NWREC).
An overhead view of Raven’s project on container grown oak trees at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center (NWREC).