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2023 Fellow: Kira Bowen​

Kira L. Bowen was born in Scranton, PA. She received her B.S. degree in Plant Sciences from the Pennsylvania State University in 1980 and completed an M.S. degree in plant pathology in 1983, working on leaf rust in wheat at the University of Minnesota. Her doctorate in plant pathology, with work on northern corn leaf blight, was completed at the University of Illinois in 1987. Dr. Bowen worked with powdery mildew of wheat while as a post-doctoral researcher with the USDA-ARS at North Carolina
State University. In the fall of 1988, she started a facu​lty position at Auburn University with responsibilities for teaching and working in plant disease epidemiology. Over the course of her career, Dr. Bowen has made significant contributions to the American Phytopathological Society, as well as to the research, teaching, and Extension missions at Auburn University.

Dr. Bowen is an author or coauthor on over 80 refereed journal articles, 10 book chapters and hundreds of abstracts, short reports, and non-refereed publications. She has established expertise on the occurrence of aflatoxin problems in peanuts and corn, as well as foliar and soil-borne fungal diseases of wheat and peanuts. Aflatoxins, produced by Aspergillus spp., are important microbial carcinogens contributing to the contamination of food and feed especially in developing countries. In peanut production, aflatoxins are the most serious threat to that industry costing about $125 million in losses annually. Bowen's work, for example, has more precisely elucidated conditions that increase the risk of aflatoxin occurrence in peanuts using readily available weather information. In recent years, she has contributed to the national project on Fusarium head blight of wheat and its management. However, she has also contributed to understanding plant disease epidemics in numerous other pathosystems, including black spot of rose, Corynespora target spot of cotton, and anthracnose in sorghum. She has also contributed to elucidating management of diseases of dogwood, peanuts, crepe myrtle, and sugar maple.

Over the past 34 years, Bowen has considered plant pathology teaching and training as a paramount responsibility. She has taught hundreds of undergraduate students in a general plant pathology course. A number of those former undergraduates have gone on to become respected plant pathologists (e.g., Drs. K. Seebold and W. Mahafee). In addition, Dr. Bowen teaches a graduate level plant disease epidemiology course and has contributed to epidemiology textbooks. She has served as chair or co-chair of 5 Ph.D. and 12 M.S. students and has been a member of numerous other graduate student committees. Several of these students are currently employed as academic and Extension faculty (e.g., Drs. Allen (MS) and Zhang (FL)), industry leaders (J. Michel, Bayer CropSciences), and international center faculty (Drs. Ratna Hadi and Sudini).

Bowen has tirelessly and enthusiastically provided service and leadership to the plant pathology community and to APS. Her first stint of service was in 1980 when the APS Annual Meeting was held at the University of Minnesota. Bowen, along with other UM graduate students at the time, was recruited to help with sign placement throughout the meeting venues. She has been a career-long member of the Crop Loss and Risk Assessment (formerly “Crop Loss") Committee, which she chaired in 1989-99, then again in 2011-12. She has been a long-term member of the Epidemiology Committee and has twice organized the Melhus Symposium for this committee (2010 and 2013). In addition, Dr. Bowen served as Senior Editor for Plant Disease from 2001 through 2004, after which she was named the first female Editor-in-Chief for this journal. As EIC, she oversaw the conversion from hard-copy submissions to electronic manuscript submissions. In all her editorial efforts, she tries to provide positive critique to authors and to do so with efficiency. In 2011, she joined the editorial board of the Education Center and helped publish many new and updated “Plant Disease Lessons." In 2016, Dr. Bowen was elected as APS Vice President, after which she moved through the Presidential lineage, with service on Council and contributed to oversight of society finances, Public Policy Board meetings, Headquarter Operations, etc. She has been on 11 grant panels over the past 15 years, and has reviewed manuscripts for different journals and publishers, ranging from Peanut Science to Phytopathology.
In addition to her research, teaching, and Extension contributions, Bowen served as Chair of her department at Auburn University, just prior to the Plant Pathology merger with Entomology in September 1999. This was a milestone appointment as the first female department leader in the College of Agriculture. She has also served as Research Coordinator for Auburn University's College of Agriculture from 2000 to 2007; as such, she assisted with faculty grant efforts and oversaw federal reporting requirements for the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station. In August 2022, Bowen was appointed as the Interim head of the Department of Crop Soil and Environmental Science at Auburn University. This appointment, made with the full support of the faculty of that department, speaks both to the breadth of Dr. Bowen's experience and her dedication to service.