Bruce B. Clarke
Bruce B. Clarke was born in Englewood, New Jersey. He joined the Rutgers faculty as an assistant extension specialist (the equivalent of assistant professor) in 1982, quickly moving through the ranks to associate and full extension specialist. In 1994, after a year as interim director, Clarke became director of the Rutgers Center for Turfgrass Science, a position that he continues to hold. In 2005, Clarke was named the first inductee of the Ralph Geiger Endowed Chair in Turfgrass Science. A consummate professional in plant pathology throughout his career, he has developed a strong, independent, and yet collaborative research program in the area of fungal disease identification and control in cool-season turfgrasses. Diseases and associated pathogens on which Clarke and his colleagues have made major contributions include summer patch (Magnaporthe poae), anthracnose (Colletotrichum cereale), gray leaf spot (Magnaporthe oryzae), and dollar spot (Sclerotinia spp.). In the late 1980s, his extensive research program with summer patch culminated in the development of a set of best management practices that have been widely used by turfgrass managers throughout the world to combat this devastating disease. As a result of his efforts to provide a better understanding of the fungal pathogen itself and of the nutritional and management regimes that encourage its growth, summer patch has gone from one of the most destructive turfgrass diseases in the United States to a problem that is now fairly easily managed. Similarly, the importance of anthracnose disease of turfgrass has decreased substantially in the 10+ years that Clarke and his colleagues have worked on it. By combining field- and greenhouse-based pathogenicity studies and in-depth laboratory experiments, Clarke and his associates have highlighted the importance of different fungal strains in anthracnose disease progression and the importance of sound cultural management in reducing the severity of this serious disease. Through his research career, Clarke has published more than 60 refereed journal articles, more than 200 industry publications, and three edited books for APS PRESS, including the second and third editions of the Compendium of Turfgrass Diseases—now the best-selling compendium published by APS PRESS. A key element of each of these long-term projects is collaboration with other quality scientists. By assembling competent and interactive teams that include soil scientists, turf management specialists, breeders, and laboratory pathologists, Clarke has been able to attack problems from multiple perspectives, allowing for rapid progress toward practical solutions that have been readily implemented by practitioners. The ability to foster such collaboration has turned out to be one of his great strengths.
The major component of Clarke’s professional appointment has been as an extension specialist, and he has performed those duties with exceptional effectiveness. Through a combination of direct extension practice, manuals, fact sheets, bulletins, newsletters, webcasts, and presentations at academic and industry meetings, Clarke has built an extension program that has become recognized throughout the Northeast, nationally, and indeed internationally. Clarke is invited on a regular basis to give presentations at venues throughout the country and around the world, a testament to the high level of respect for his knowledge of turfgrass diseases and his ability to convey that knowledge to others. In the early1990s, Clarke recognized that a stand-alone plant disease diagnostic laboratory was needed at Rutgers to serve the needs of the state, so he collaborated with the extension director and another faculty member to establish one. The Rutgers Plant Diagnostic Lab opened in 1992 and has become one of the most successful diagnostic facilities in the country. It is indeed a heavily used resource of great value to agriculture and landscape-associated industries in the state and region. Clarke now oversees operations of both the Plant Diagnostic Lab and the Rutgers Soil Testing Lab, and he was instrumental in recently revitalizing the latter facility. As part of his three-way split, Clarke teaches a graduate-level course in plant disease diagnostics. The course has been taught since 1982 and is one of the most important courses in the Rutgers plant pathology curriculum. In this summer course, students learn how to diagnose plant diseases through an intensive combination of classroom lecture, field collection trips, and hands-on laboratory study. He also has cotaught an undergraduate course in turfgrass pest science since 1999. In 2007, Clarke received the Outstanding Professor of the Year Award from the Rutgers Plant Biology Graduate Student Association. In addition to his role as a researcher, teacher, and extension professional, Clarke has also had extensive administrative responsibilities. During his 18+ years of service as director of the Center for Turfgrass Science, he has taken the center to a position of world prominence. As he has done in his other roles, Clarke has used his organizational skills to bring together the best scientists to build a center that covers every aspect of turfgrass science, from management to genomics. He has pushed for a balanced combination of competitive grants, industry support, and internal funding based on grass seed royalties to drive the Rutgers turfgrass program. He also served as chair of the Plant Pathology Department from 1999 to 2001 and has been vice chair of the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology since 2001. Throughout his career, Clarke has been a tireless fundraiser. He has attracted more than 10 million dollars from the turfgrass industry over the past 20 years to support turfgrass research, teaching, and outreach programs at the center. As director, Clarke has brought a level of international recognition to the Rutgers Turfgrass Program that recently resulted in his election as president-elect of the International Turfgrass Society, a role in which he will become president from 2013 to 2017. Clarke and his colleagues at Rutgers will host the International Turfgrass Society Research Conference in New Jersey in 2017.
Clarke has been recognized extensively by his colleagues and peers for the many contributions that define his outstanding career as a plant pathologist who has had a major impact on the field. His complete CV lists a total of 47 honors and awards highlighting his many diverse accomplishments. He has served as president of the Northeast Division of APS and as an associate editor for Plant Disease. Clarke was elected a fellow of the American Society of Agronomy in 2004 and a fellow of the Crop Science Society of America in 2006. His career has reached full stride and he is a credit to his profession, Rutgers University, and APS.