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Niklaus J. Grünwald
Niklaus J. Grünwald was born in Caracas, Venezuela and later moved to Switzerland. He began his undergraduate work at the University of Zürich before transferring to the University of California at Davis (UC Davis), where he earned his B.S. in Plant Science in 1992. He remained at UC Davis to earn his Ph.D. in Ecology in 1997 under the direction of Ariena H. C. van Bruggen. He received postdoctoral training with William E. Fry of Cornell University, investigating potato late blight in the Toluca Valley of Mexico. In 2001, Grünwald joined the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Prosser, WA, as a Research Plant Pathologist, and transferred to his current position with the USDA Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory in Corvallis, OR, in 2004. Since that time, he has also been on the faculty of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Oregon State University (OSU), where he currently holds the rank of Professor. In 2013, he became an Adjunct Professor in the the School of Integrative Plant Science of the Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section at Cornell University. He also served as Acting Research Leader for the USDA National Forage Crop Seed Research Center in 2014.
Dr. Grünwald is an international leader in the population biology of plant pathogens, particularly the oomycetes. His Ph.D. research focused on cover crops and their impacts on nutrient dynamics and suppressiveness of soils to
species. His postdoctoral studies involved classic studies on potato late blight at its center of origin, including host-pathogen coevolution and the role of oospores in epidemics. He co-discovered a new species,
, and demonstrated that it evolved in sympatric speciation with
in central Mexico. Grünwald and colleagues collated and evaluated data supporting the durability of quantitative resistance to potato late blight in agriculture. A project integrating user-friendly disease forecasting with host plant resistance showed that fungicide applications could be dramatically decreased. Finally, Grünwald demonstrated the selective influence of fungicides and their impact on genetic diversity of
. While in Prosser, Grünwald conducted work on development of molecular markers and studies of genetic diversity over a range of spatial scales for
, leading to advances in our knowledge of plant pathogen population genetics and our understanding of the basic biology of these pathogens.
After moving to Corvallis, Grünwald has continued his sustained, high quality contributions to the population genetics, and more recently the population genomics, of plant pathogens, especially
species. For example, his group’s utilization of rapidly evolving SSR markers show definitively how
isolates were transferred from West Coast U.S. nurseries to the East Coast between 2004 and 2007, which provided strong support for the quarantine measures used to limit the spread of the pathogen. Follow-up studies highlighted the importance of human activity in mobilizing the
population on the West Coast of the U.S., and demonstrated ongoing movement of the pathogen between Europe, Canada, and the U.S. His group has also published a series of articles on the population structure of
, culminating in the recent paper in PNAS establishing definitively that this pathogen originated in the Toluca Valley of Mexico rather than in the Andes, as was previously suggested. His contributions to understanding the population structure of
have greatly improved knowledge of how these pathogens spread and evolve, and hence have informed control measures. He has been a leader in bringing phylogenomic methods such as coalescent analysis to the study of plant pathogens, and recently developed and published with his students an R software package (
) that introduces core functions for analysis of populations with mixed modes of sexual and asexual reproduction, including new algorithms for analyzing genotyping-by-sequencing data.
was listed as one of the top ten bioinformatics papers in PeerJ for 2015 and is currently cited in the top 1% of the academic field of Computer Science.
Grünwald is well known for multidisciplinary approaches to science and integration of methodology ranging from the traditional to the most modern. He is a superb collaborator with a talent for building strong multi-disciplinary teams. His efforts have resulted in an impressive record of scientific productivity, including 121 refereed journal articles, as well numerous books, book chapters, technical publications, and popular press articles. His work has been published in highly prestigious journals such as Science, Nature, PLoS Pathogens, and PNAS, and he has authored four invited contributions to Annual Review of Phytopathology. Though he has made major strides in understanding fundamental biological concepts that are the building blocks of future disease management strategies, he has also been involved in translational research that addresses immediate issues facing growers, nurserymen, and plant breeders.
Grünwald has provided exceptional service to the American Phytopathological Society and to the greater scientific community. This includes serving as a member and chair of the APS Epidemiology Committee, member and chair of the Genetics Committee, board member of the APS Office of International Programs (OIP), board member of the APS Office of Electronic Communication (OEC), participant in the APS Thought Leader Meeting, and a member of the APS Scientific Visionary Advisory Panel. Grünwald played a crucial role in the translation of APS Plant Disease lessons to multiple languages, and organized four workshops on population genetics and one workshop on statistical analyses at annual APS meetings. Perhaps his most significant service, however, has been in editorial capacities. Grünwald has served as Senior Editor for the APSnet Education Center; Associate Editor, Senior Editor, and Editor-in-Chief of Phytopathology; and is currently chair of the APS Publications Board. He has strongly encouraged APS to innovate its publications to meet challenges of the rapidly changing electronic age, an effort that is critical to the scientific and financial future of APS. While providing this outstanding editorial service to APS, Grünwald has simultaneously served on editorial boards for PLoS One, Plant Pathology, Mycologia, and PeerJ, as well as a reviewer for numerous other journals. His service also extends to review panels for a diversity of national and international granting agencies. Grünwald is an outstanding mentor to his research staff and students, and has given unselfishly to his colleagues in USDA-ARS and at Oregon State University.
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