Natália A. Peres was born and grew up in Santos, São Paulo, Brazil. She completed all of her university work at the São Paulo State University in Botucatu, Brazil. Her undergraduate degree was in agronomy, her M.S. degree was in horticulture, and in 2002, she received her Ph.D. degree in plant pathology. Her dissertation research dealt primarily with the epidemiology and management of postbloom fruit drop (PFD) of citrus caused by Colletotrichum acutatum. Subsequently, she spent 1-1/2 years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Instituto Biológico in São Paulo, continuing her work on citrus diseases. In 2003, she applied for a permanent position for the first time and was appointed as assistant professor at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC) of the University of Florida. Her responsibilities there include research and extension on diseases of strawberries and ornamentals.
Through her doctoral and postdoctoral research, Peres has established herself as an expert on foliar fungal diseases of citrus. The computer-assisted decision system that she developed, PFD-FAD, is available in three languages and is widely used by growers in the Americas to schedule fungicide applications for control of PFD. During her postdoctoral work, she compared existing PCR detection systems and developed her own for the identification of the black spot pathogen, Guignardia citricarpa, and differentiation of it from the commonly occurring saprophyte on citrus, G. mangiferae. Black spot is a serious disease in Brazil and shipment of fruit from areas with the disease to the United States and Mediterranean countries can represent a risk for introduction of the disease. Thus, it is important to have rapid diagnostic techniques to differentiate the pathogen from the saprophyte. In addition, she was involved in a project to evaluate controls for the postharvest symptom development of black spot and survival of the pathogen. She has always been interested in weather-based models for disease prediction and evaluated the Alter-Rater model, developed in Florida, for control of Alternaria brown spot of tangerines in Brazil. Reflecting her expertise on citrus diseases, she has consulted on PFD in Costa Rica and on Alternaria brown spot in Peru, been invited to speak on PFD and other citrus diseases in Brazil, and been invited to review black spot and Guignardia for CABI.
When she moved to a new position with the University of Florida, she had to learn new diseases and crops. There, Peres rapidly established an effective program on strawberry and ornamental diseases. On strawberries, she developed programs on the biology of anthracnose and Botrytis fruit rots and is evaluating predictive models for those diseases to help reduce fungicide usage on that crop. A major grant was obtained from the USDA/RMA to fund the research on the development of predictive models for strawberry diseases. She has also evaluated fungicides and new programs for control of those diseases and receives substantial funding from fungicide manufacturers to support that work. She has been invited to consult on strawberry disease problems in Spain, Egypt, New Zealand, and Australia and has given talks in those countries on diseases and her research program in Florida. As the only pathologist at the center, she supervises the diagnostic clinic and frequently presents talks to grower groups, provides training for extension specialists, and advises strawberry and ornamental producers on disease control. On ornamental diseases, she cooperates with colleagues in a USDA/TSTAR-funded project on disease problems on caladiums and has an M.S. student working on powdery mildew of gerbera daisies. After only 3 years in her current position, she already serves as major professor for three students and serves on the committee of two others at the University of Florida, in addition to assisting a student in Brazil. Peres is an excellent manager and is able to coordinate many programs and still be effective. Her advice is sought by students, colleagues, and growers and she always tries to provide assistance wherever possible.
One of her principal areas of interest in research has been Colletotrichum acutatum, and she is recognized as an expert on that species. She was invited to present two talks on her work at the International Congress of Plant Pathology in New Zealand. Recently, she wrote a feature article for Plant Disease, together with other experts, that provided a great deal of insight into the infection process, host range, and life cycle of that fungus on many crops. That article has been used as a basis to launch a new project investigating the ability of isolates to move from one crop to another and utilizing molecular techniques to determine the relationship of isolates from different host plants. She has received a significant grant from USDA/TSTAR to fund these studies. The results will have an impact on regulations for the movement of produce as well as on the epidemiology of the disease among multiple crops.
Peres has been active in APS and has attended most of the meetings since 1999. She is currently vice chair of the Fungicide Resistance Committee and coordinator for Portuguese translations for the APSnet Education Center. She frequently reviews papers for Plant Disease, Phytopathology, and Plant Health Progress, as well as for other journals, such as Biological Control and Crop Protection. She is also active at GCREC. She has served on the search and screen committees for two faculty positions, the Website/Public Relations Committee, and the Cultivar Release Committee; frequently peer reviews publications of her colleagues; and has provided service to the center and the university in many capacities. Peres has already achieved a great deal early in her career in research and extension and has a very promising future.
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