Jean Beagle Ristaino
Dr. Jean Beagle Ristaino is a William Neal Reynolds Professor of Plant Pathology at North Carolina State University.
She heads a lab working on emerging plant diseases that threaten global food security. A major focus of her research is to understand the factors that contribute to disease emergence including the epidemiology and population genetics of Oomycete plant pathogens in the genus Phytophthora. Phytophthora infestans caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s, and is a reemerging threat to global food security and problematic in many regions in Africa where potato and tomato are grown. Ristaino’s lab studies the population genetics and migrations of both historic and present day strains of the pathogen. Her lab was part of a multi-investigator group that sequenced the genome of the pathogen and is now using the genome sequence to develop novel strategies for managing disease in the field. Ristaino’s team has developed a web portal called USAblight.org that can be used to track recent outbreaks of disease using geospatial analytics.
Dr Ristaino conducts Phytophthora diagnostic workshops globally and also works on other pathogens of tropical crop plants including black Sigatoka on banana, downy mildew of tobacco, and soilborne fungal pathogens and leads the “Emerging Plant Disease and Global Food Security” cluster at NC State. She was named a Jefferson Science Fellow with the US Department of State and USAID in 2013 and is dedicated to empowering scientists in the developing world.