Carol Anne Ishimaru
Carol Anne Ishimaru was born in Detroit, Michigan. She studied at Michigan State University, completing a B.Sc. degree with High Honors in botany in 1979 and a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology in 1985. She continued her training in plant bacteriology as a post-doctorate scientist with Anne Vidaver at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and with Joyce Loper at the USDA-ARS Horticultural Crops Research Lab, Corvallis, Oregon. She joined the Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management at Colorado State University in 1989 as an assistant professor, associate professor in 1995, and professor in 2003, with a simultaneous adjunct appointment in the Department of Microbiology. Ishimaru joined the faculty in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Minnesota in 2004 as professor and head, remaining head until 2013. She currently is a professor with a research and teaching appointment.
Ishimaru is a leader among leaders and is recognized as an effective and tireless advocate for plant pathology and as a dedicated scientist and educator. As department head at the University of Minnesota, she provided the right leadership at the right time for the unit. After experiencing significant budget reductions and dwindling numbers of state-supported faculty, the 100-year-old department, known for such titans as E. C. Stakman, J. J. Christensen, Helen Hart, Norman Borlaug, and many others, was on the verge of extinction. Her persuasive and impassioned requests for investments in plant pathology were creatively presented as part of a larger vision for a newly invigorated and relevant department. By communicating the importance of plant pathology to the state’s economy and global food security, Ishimaru convinced college leadership that the department must be preserved. Her efforts resulted in several faculty hires in 2012–2014, creating the critical mass of plant pathology expertise necessary for continuing the department’s long and rich legacy of local and global contributions.
As head, she led the department with vision, hard work, and grit, proving herself to be an inspired and inspiring leader. She organized and led several departmental summits that produced a new governance structure, a new strategic plan, and a revised curriculum and course plan for the Plant Pathology Graduate Program. The strategic planning process marked an important, positive turning point in the department’s culture. Ishimaru is credited for fostering an inclusive environment that leverages diversity and nurtures inclusivity. The faculty, students, and staff emerged as a unit with a common vision and mutual respect for one another. Moreover, their visibility within the college and the university soared. She rekindled awareness of Norman Borlaug’s legacy by assisting in establishing the Stakman-Borlaug Cereal Rust Center and in producing Saving Wheat: Rusts Never Sleep, a 60-minute video for public television, which received an Upper Midwest Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Ishimaru was successful in improving and expanding research and teaching facilities within the department during a time of diminishing resources. She led several renovation projects, including improvements to research labs and to administrative and graduate student offices and a complete remodeling of a shared autoclave and equipment space. For her leadership on design, construction, and certification of a high-containment (BSL3) plant pathogen facility, she received the 2008 Outstanding Service Award from the University of Minnesota and the 2008 Research and Tech Transfer Committee Award from the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. The high-containment facility is one of the only places in the United States where research on high-consequence plant diseases, such as stem rust caused by race UG99, is being conducted.
Ishimaru has been an effective and diligent servant to APS. Continuously for more than 20 years, Ishimaru has served the society in a wide variety of capacities, including membership on and leadership of committees and editorial boards and service as APS secretary and APS president. Among her impacts, Ishimaru coorganized the first APS symposium on the genomics of plant-pathogenic bacteria and worked with colleagues on the Working Group of the APS Bacteriology Committee to create the first List of Widely Prevalent Plant-Pathogenic Bacteria to facilitate research and response to important plant pathogens by expediting APHIS permits for importation and movement. As secretary (2001–2004), she initiated transitions that led to increased active engagement of the secretary in council business and electronic communications. During her service in the APS presidential lineage (2009–2013), she revamped and reorganized APS Council’s internal communication system, led the implementation process for making informed investment decisions on new products and services, and established an ad hoc committee to create videos on plant pathology aimed at undergraduate students. As president, she organized the highly interactive and provocative plenary session “Communicating Science” for the 2012 APS Annual Meeting.
Throughout her career, Ishimaru has been committed to graduate education, serving as advisor or member on 44 graduate committees and teaching graduate courses related to plant bacteriology. For her dedication, she received the Outstanding Mentor Award in 2012 from the University of Minnesota Plant Pathology Graduate Student Assembly.
Ishimaru is widely recognized for her substantial research contributions to the field of plant bacteriology. As a graduate student, she isolated and characterized a biological control agent effective against fire blight of pear and apple. The strain, C9-1, has been the subject of several collaborative investigations, including complete genome sequencing and structure and genetic analyses demonstrating the role of antibiotic production in biological control. Her partnership with Anne Vidaver was a critical step in what became a career goal of understanding the mechanisms by which gram-positive coryneform bacteria cause diseases in plants. She was one of the first to realize the value of whole-genome sequencing for revealing virulence strategies of bacteria in the genus Clavibacter, known for slow growth and resistance to genetic manipulation. She coordinated an international genome sequencing project on Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. sepedonicus and whole-genome comparisons with Clavibacter michiganensis subspecies michiganensis. She and colleagues have recently identified key virulence effectors produced by Clavibacter michiganensis subspecies sepedonicus during interactions with host and nonhost plants.
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