Finally, Alvarez coauthored an innovative approach to identifying closely related strains of plant-pathogenic bacteria. She worked with Kevin Schneider and colleague Gernot Presting to successfully develop the use of replication initiation factor (RIF) markers based on a region of the bacterial dnaA gene; the method is a valuable addition to multilocus sequence typing and other genetic tools used to assess pathogen diversity and evolution. Alvarez’s research program illustrates the importance of incorporating advances in technology to better manage and control bacterial diseases of plants.
Alvarez is recognized for her leadership in developing new approaches for rapid and accurate detection of bacterial pathogens. In her early work before DNA-based methodology was available, she helped pioneer immunodiagnostic procedures that included the use of polyclonal antisera and monoclonal antibodies to define subpopulations of several plant bacterial pathogens. A large number of hybridoma cell lines for immunodiagnostics were successfully commercialized for use in diagnostic labs throughout the world. Students in her laboratory and colleague Daniel Jenkins developed the use of loop-mediated isothermal amplification, commonly known as LAMP, for a sensitive DNA-based means of detection of R. solanacearum and Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. michiganensis from environmental sources. The goal is to make this technology available to remote parts of the world as evidenced by recent field tests in Guatemala and Guam of miniaturized hand-held LAMP equipment to assess its reliability in detecting bacterial wilt. Alvarez documented the use of integrated approaches for disease diagnosis in a review in the Annual Review of Phytopathology in 2004, which provides a comprehensive account of progress in applying immunodiagnostic and DNA-based detection methods. These studies will have a lasting impact on plant bacterial diagnostics.
Alvarez has an impressive record of training and mentoring graduate students in plant pathology. Since 1975, she has guided the research of at least 25 graduate students and also served on the graduate committees for a large number of students at Hawaii. Several of these students have established substantial careers in plant pathology and the plant sciences. Alvarez teaches Plant-Bacterial Interactions/Plant Bacteriology—courses that have been the foundation of her teaching throughout her career. Alvarez delights in guiding students in research activities wherein she elicits enthusiasm for scientific exploration of plant-associated bacteria.
For her many contributions to science and education, she has been honored with the International Cooperation and Development Award from the USDA-RSED, Scientist of the Year Award from the ARCS Foundation, and was a research fellow for Plant Research International, Wageningen, the Netherlands. Alvarez has been highly active in service to APS throughout her career, including current membership on the APS Foundation Board. Alvarez was a member of the inaugural Office of Electronic Communications Board (1997–2000) that spearheaded the development of APSnet feature articles, the development of the Plant Health Progress journal, and the development of the APS Education Center. She later served as a senior editor for the newly launched Plant Health Progress (2000–2003) and subsequently served as a senior editor for books and compendia at APS PRESS (2002–2006). She also served as an associate editor for Phytopathology and Plant Disease. In 2010, Alvarez, Milton Schroth, and Eva Hecht-Poinar developed and compiled an image database for APS entitled Plant Diseases Caused by Bacteria with more than 1,000 high-quality images of plants affected with bacterial diseases that can be used for a variety of educational purposes. Alvarez is recognized for membership on several APS committees (Bacteriology, Seed Pathology, and Emerging Diseases and Pathogens) and for service as APS liaison to the International Society of Plant Pathology. She is frequently invited to speak about her studies of bacterial pathogens of tropical plants at national and international meetings.
In conclusion, Anne Alvarez is recognized worldwide as an esteemed authority on plant-pathogenic bacteria who has made long-lasting contributions to the detection and management of bacterial diseases, especially in tropical plants. Most notably, Alvarez’s studies of Xanthomonas species are extensive and range from field ecology and pathogen detection to fundamental studies of bacterial diversity and molecular genetics. Her achievements demonstrate how research innovation and knowledge can directly benefit agriculture and education.