Forest Health Dynamics Laboratory Project at Auburn University
School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences

Graduate Students

Page last updated on: March 28, 2014

Paul Jackson

PhD Graduate Research Assistant
MS Louisiana Tech University - 2006
BS Northwestern State University - 2000

My research project is to examine the factors that determine survival of seedlings that are stored prior to out-planting.  Thus,  in my experiments efforts will be made to identify why some seedlings survive after storage and some seedlings do not  This will give nursery managers a wider window of lifting and storing and decrease the amount of out planting that is done in March and April of each year.   Some of my experiments will involve the four main southern pine species, loblolly, longleaf, slash and shortleaf pine.   There is some speculation that soil-borne fungi that become established on seedling roots after lifting are responsible for seedling mortality.  These "theories" are going to be tested and examined over the next 3 years.

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Don Cafaro

MF Graduate Research Assistant
BS Auburn University 2000

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I am interested in the ability to use GIS information that is currently available on forest types to be able to predict or model disease and/or insect outbreaks in forest stands. 


Mark Rumph

MS Graduate Research Assistant

BS Auburn University 1996


I graduated from Huntingdon College in 1991 with a BA in history and religion/philosophy. My interest is in forest health protection and I plan to work in the corporate area for several years before going into consulting. I am interested in examining the relationship between Fomes and Armillaria root rots and the biological control fungus Peniophora gigantea and how P. gigantea out competes the root rot pathogens. I am interested in eventually using my MS skills to manage my personal land as well as serve as a consulting forester for the landowners of Alabama. Also, I have been busy at my other job as well. Please check out my IPM WEB SITE with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System


Jason Shelton

MS Graduate Research Assistant
BS University of Montana 1998


I am interested in determining the sources of inoculum in and on the cones in the orchard, storage, seed extraction and container nursery culture that contribute to the occurrence of pitch canker. This manifests itself as damping-off, seed decay and late-season seedling blight. Genetic resistance, endemic orchard disease, time of cone collection, cone storage duration, seed extraction methods, seed storage conditions, and duration, seed treatment, container type, fertility management, soil microorganism interactions and invertebrate vector/wounding agents will be examined. Each of these factors is known, or has the potential to affect pitch canker disease progress. Orchard factors will be examined as well as nursery factors with emphasis on management practices to minimize seed contamination and maximize seed quality and efficiency.


Liz Bent

Congratulations Liz!!!!

Graduated November 2000

PhD University of British Columbia 2000
BS University of Guelph 1995


I am interested in the interactions between the seedling root system, and the micro-organisms that colonize the seedling. Bacteria have both a positive and negative affect on what type of mycorrhizae form as well as the population dynamics of specific plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria. The sorts of things that I am examining include: 1. Measurement of growth promotion/ root colonization by two Bacillus PGPRs, with a Pseudomonas competitor (deleterious), to see if the competitor masks PGPR-mediated growth promotion as well with mycorrhizal seedlings. In addition to that I plan to use con-focal Microscopy to figure out spatial distributions of bacteria on roots, and whether changes occur in co-inoculated treatments. Some Biochemical assays are planned to investigate what mechanisms might be involved in each PGPR-plant interaction, specifically- hormone levels, pectinase production, defense response induction.


Becky Estes

Graduated Spring 2001!!!!!
Outstanding MS Student at Auburn University 2001 !!!!!!

MS  School Forestry & Wildlife Sciences
BS University of the South, Sewanee, TN 1997


I examined the relationship of the host response specificity in tree species when treated with PGPR that may be related to local environmental and geographical conditions, i.e. provenance's. Seedling growth response specificity following inoculation with PGPR would be an impediment to the development of effective seed or root inoculates for use in nursery or outplanting programs, respectively. While PGPR have been shown to work on a few northern conifers, rhizosphere colonization of southern tree species has not previously been studied. My research project  examined the soil-plant interactions of plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria and examine some physiological mechanisms responsible for growth promotion. Specific areas of research included, 1) the soil-plant-microbial interactions of rhizobacteria on a commercially important crop, 2) the ecophysiological relationships between PGPR bacteria and different host genotypes and 3) the temporal and spatial dynamics of rhizosphere populations and 4) examination of edaphic and climatic plant stresses have on the soil-root interface such as moisture and air pollution.


Tom Allen

Congratulations Tom

Graduated Spring 1999!!!!!

BS Biology - Indiana University 1994

MS Forestry - Auburn University 1999


I examined the relationship between seed source and the amount of infestation of longleaf pine seed by the fungus Fusarium subglutinans. This fungus is responsible for the disease Pitch Canker which has caused extensive losses (millions of seedlings per year) of longleaf pine seedlings in forest-tree nurseries. We know there is a genetic relationship between the amount of infection in the field observed in seed orchards. Collections of different provenance's will help nursery managers select the proper seed source. Another avenue of my research is to identify an effective seed treatment against pitch canker that can be used prior to sowing. Currently, there is no effective pesticide that has been shown to reduce the amount of damping-off or late-season seedling blight. A number of fungicides, as well as some promising biological control agents are being examined in the greenhouse. 


Jen Vonderwell

Congratulations Jen

Graduated Fall of 1998!!!!!

BS Purdue University 1994

MS Auburn University 1998


I am examining the relationship between the strain of plant growth promoting bacteria used and the dose response. We have found that the strain of bacteria can have a profound effect on the performance of seedling growth. Some bacteria stunt growth, while others increase root and shoot growth over non-inoculated seed. One of the hypothesis I am testing with this project is that dose response has an affect; i.e. the amount of bacteria placed on the seed at the time of sowing determines whether the seedling is stunted or not. These trials have been conducted at a forest-tree nursery in South Carolina. Another hypothesis that I am testing is that the growth promotion observed is because the CO2 respiration efficiency is increased with some bacterial strains. Seedlings that are more efficient in their respiration are able to produce larger seedlings over those seedlings that are not treated with the bacteria. Another potential explanation for the treatment effect is that the bacteria increase the amount of IAA available to the seedlings, and thus, produce more roots which are larger than those seedlings that did not receive the bacterial treatment.

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