Richard M. Bostock
Richard M. Bostock graduated from Rhodes College with a B.S. degree in biology with distinction in 1974. He received his Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from the University of Kentucky in 1981 and joined the Department of Plant Pathology of the University of California-Davis. He achieved the rank of professor in 1993 and served as department chair from 1999 to 2005. In 1990, he was a visiting scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Bostock has made seminal contributions to understanding the interaction between plant pathogens and environmental stress through fundamental studies of signaling in plant-oomycete interactions and through translational research on the etiology and management of fungal diseases of orchard crops. In his basic research efforts, Bostock has studied eicosapolyenoic acid signaling in plant immunity, cross-talk in defense signaling networks, and programmed cell death. Throughout his professional career, he has maintained a focus in disease predisposition, emphasizing Phytophthora root rots as classic examples of diseases aggravated by soil saturation, drought, and salinity. Bostock has published widely on the role of abscisic acid (ABA), which can function as part of an adaptive strategy to help plants cope with stress as well as a factor that impacts disease and defense. This is an area that now is attracting intense interest with recent discoveries in ABA biosynthesis, receptor biology, and signaling networks. He and his colleagues discovered that root stress predisposition to infection by Phytophthora ramorum, a wide-host-range pathogen damaging to valuable hosts such as oak, can accelerate the onset and enhance the severity of disease. These findings are of particular relevance to occurrence of disease on nursery stock of many commonly grown landscape plants, a multibillion dollar industry. Throughout his career, Bostock has studied diseases affecting the production of stone fruits in California. This research revealed mechanisms of host penetration by Monilinia fructicola, a persistent and economically important pathogen, and included collaborative studies to identify molecular markers for disease resistance to accelerate the development of new peach cultivars.
Of particular relevance to the mission of APS has been Bostock’s role in the development of the National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN), supported by the USDA. NPDN is a nationwide network of public agricultural institutions with a cohesive but distributed system to quickly detect and identify high-consequence pests and pathogens that have been introduced into agricultural and natural ecosystems. These activities are supported by investments in plant diagnostic laboratory infrastructure and training. The appearance of new pests and pathogens is immediately reported to appropriate responders. From NPDN’s founding in 2002, Bostock has been instrumental in the development of its organization. He founded and continues to serve as the director for one of five NPDN centers, the Western Region (WPDN), which is managed as a partnership of University of California-Davis and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Also since NPDN’s founding, Bostock has been a member of the national executive and operations management teams and in 2009 was appointed to a three-year term as the national executive director.
Bostock’s leadership contributed to the development of an extensive network of first detectors and responders through a program of education and outreach. Critical were his efforts at enhancing communication among federal and state agencies and other stakeholders responsible for mitigating the effects of new outbreaks. In the history of U.S. agriculture, there has not previously been a program so extensive, highly coordinated, and able to deal with disease and pest outbreaks nationally and in real time. Bostock’s contributions to NPDN as a sustainable and critical tool for the detection and management of plant disease in the United States cannot be overstated. In his role as an advocate for WPDN and NPDN, he has presented seminars, prepared press releases and advocacy statements, published articles related to the program, and visited congressional staff in Washington, DC. The overall success of NPDN and its importance as an invaluable resource to plant pathology and national food security was recognized in 2010 with the USDA-NIFA Partnership Award for Innovative Program Models.
Bostock has served as chair of the APS Biochemistry—Molecular and Cellular Phytopathology Committee and as APS Scientific Programs Board section chair of Molecular, Cellular Plant-Microbe Interactions. In 2009, APS President Jim Moyer, on behalf of the APS Council, appointed Bostock to lead a special committee of APS to develop a Leadership Institute designed to provide APS members with the skills required to become leaders in the society and in their workplaces. The first offering of the Leadership Institute was held at the 2010 APS Annual Meeting and was considered to be a clear success. Bostock also maintains advisory roles to the University of California Endemic and Invasive Pest and Diseases Committee, the APS Plant Pathogen Forensics Working Group, and other groups concerned with new and emerging diseases. He has served on the editorial boards of Phytopathology, Plant Physiology, and Mycopathologia and as senior editor of Physiological and Molecular Plant Pathology. For 3 years, he was a panel member for the USDA-NRICGP plant pathology program. From 1991 to 2002, he was a co-PI of the NSF Science and Technology Center for Engineering Plants for Resistance Against Pathogens (CEPRAP) at the University of California-Davis.
Bostock is a dedicated and popular instructor in the introductory undergraduate course in plant pathology and in graduate courses on the biochemistry and molecular biology of plant disease. He also is the coinstructor of a very popular science and society course entitled Feeding the Planet, where his broad knowledge of agriculture is particularly valued. He is an engaged mentor of graduate students, having trained a few tens of students who are practicing professionals in the discipline.
In summary, Bostock’s public service and contributions to his profession have been outstanding and of great benefit to the control of plant diseases. His efforts in the education of students in the science of plant-microbe interactions and practical disease control and his research on these topics are meritorious. In his professional life of more than three decades, Bostock’s contributions have been consistent, productive, and relevant to the mission of the discipline and of APS.