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Amanda J. Gevens

Amanda Jane Gevens was born in Southampton, NY. She earned a B.S. degree in Biology from Muhlenberg College in 1999, an M.S. degree in Plant Pathology from Purdue University in 2001, and a Ph.D. degree in Plant Pathology at Michigan State University in 2005. Following postdoctoral work at MSU, she joined the Department of Plant Pathology at University of Florida in 2007 as an assistant professor. In 2009 she joined the Department of Plant Pathology at University of Wisconsin-Madison as an assistant professor with extension and research responsibilities in vegetable pathology, and in 2015 she was promoted to associate professor. Since 2016 she has served as Interim Director of the Wisconsin Seed Potato Certification Program.  Through numerous awards, Gevens has been recognized by UW-Madison, UW-Extension, and the potato industry for her leadership and excellence in extension.

Gevens’ high-quality extension program is supported by and fully integrated with her prolific research program. Repeatedly she has identified researchable problems and secured the human, material, and financial resources necessary to do innovative research and deliver answers to stakeholders. A major focus of her program is late blight of potato and tomato, caused by Phytophthora infestans. In Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest, late blight reappeared in 2009 after a six-year hiatus. Gevens found that new clonal lineages, US-22, US-23, and US-24 were present, with US-23 prevailing from 2012 to 2017.  She engaged county extension personnel, crop consultants, regulators, and growers to educate them on how this new lineage, along with the older US-8 lineage, would impact management. Her group continues to provide rapid response to growers on clonal lineages, describe fitness traits, host specificity, and the epidemic potential of lineages on both potato and tomato, and they test the sensitivity of strains to conventional and organic- approved fungicides. Recent work has focused on development of remote hyperspectral technology in detecting pre-symptomatic late blight in potato.  Her website reports current disease forecasts and spray recommendations so that controls can be promptly implemented.   Recently, Gevens aided state lawmakers in drafting two bills: one focuses on prompt late blight treatment and one mandates use of certified seed potatoes. Her testimony before the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly on the need for preventative disease control to reduce reliance on pesticides and to protect the state’s $323 million potato industry was key in getting the bills signed into law.

Through extensive surveillance and multi-faceted educational programs, Gevens has successfully conveyed the concept of late blight as a community disease that is everyone’s responsibility to manage. Her “STOP Late Blight Plant Share Program,” distributes late blight-resistant tomato plants to gardeners, who report back on plant health and quality. This citizen science project has increased reporting of late blight and heightened awareness of the significant economic threat this disease poses to Wisconsin’s potato industry.

In addition to late blight, Gevens’ comprehensive program spans a large range of pathogens that attack vegetables and emerging specialty crops. For example, in the past decade hop yards have sprung up in Wisconsin, and with them, severe diseases. Responding to new information needs, Gevens and extension colleagues secured funding for a Ph.D. student and she now leads one of the few programs on this unique crop of increasing importance.   Each year she publishes results from fungicide trials aimed at identifying the most effective, environmentally sound, and economical treatments for numerous crop diseases.   From these data she provides recommendations for Wisconsin and other states and Canada where she is regularly invited to speak. Extension pathologists in other states often look to Gevens’ data when making recommendations in their regions.

Gevens’ extension program showcases her leadership, responsiveness, and ability to engage appropriate audiences for maximum impact. In addition to traditional agricultural clientele, Gevens makes her programs accessible to socially and ethnically diverse audiences. In western Wisconsin, Amish farmers began growing vegetables in the early 2000s, but because they did not understand the biology of the associated pathogens and other pests, and were not using appropriate products or spray equipment, their efforts were failing and worker safety was a concern. Through the work of Gevens and others on the extension team, 90% of these growers now pro-actively practice IPM and safety has improved. Gevens has further engaged Latino communities by providing Spanish translations of the UWEX Wisconsin Crop Manager, Vegetable Crop Update. Since 2011 Gevens has coordinated and edited this popular newsletter that is distributed directly to over 4000 stakeholders in the Midwest. In addition, via her web site, grower association, and national extension connections, the newsletter is accessed by thousands more in the U.S. and in 40 countries.   Additionally, Gevens has embraced social media to deliver timely messages to tech-savvy audiences and to gain feedback from stakeholders to track the impact of her programs.

Gevens’ service to APS and the North Central Division of APS is exemplary. She served as President of the Division in 2013-14 after being Vice President in 2012-13. She organized and presided over a spectacular divisional meeting in Madison in 2014 that set attendance records. These and other achievements earned Gevens the 2015 APS North Central Division Early Career AwardGevens served as a Divisional Forum Representative, and is past chair of the APS Mycology and Extension committees. She is a sought after reviewer and has served on the editorial boards of Plant Disease and Plant Disease Management Reports, and is Editor-in-Chief for PMN’s Focus on Potato.

At UW-Madison and increasingly nationally, Gevens is known for her outstanding mentoring of students with an interest in extension and applied plant pathology. She has a special knack for matching projects with students’ interests and aptitude. Under her guidance, both traditional and non-traditional students thrive and land rewarding careers within plant pathology and applied agriculture. In Gevens, students see an approachable, sincere, and highly knowledgeable professor whom they can rely on for insightful advice on careers in extension and industry.

In summary, Amanda Gevens is a model extension specialist, with notable achievements in extension, research, mentoring, and service. She is eminently qualified for the APS Excellence in Extension Award.