The society grants this honor to a current APS member in recognition of distinguished contributions to plant pathology or to The American Phytopathological Society. Fellow recognition is based on significant contributions in one or more of the following areas: original research, teaching, administration, professional and public service, and/or extension and outreach.
Melodie Putnam was born in Portland, OR. At Oregon State University, she earned a B.S. degree in botany and plant pathology and in agronomy, after which she earned her M.S. degree in plant pathology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Following positions with the USDA in Beltsville, MD, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, and Purdue University, Putnam settled at Oregon State University in 1993, where she remains. She is now a tenured senior instructor II, an extension plant pathologist, and the director of the Plant Clinic in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology.
Putnam's contributions epitomize “distinguished contributions" to our field. Putnam has contributed significantly to our understanding of the etiology of diseases caused by Rhodococcus fascians, as well as the ecology, mechanisms of virulence, and evolutionary biology of the pathogen. She demonstrates leadership and excellence in frontline plant disease diagnostics within the Pacific Northwest and the National Plant Diagnostic Network and has been a leader in efforts to integrate genomic and metagenomic sequencing and computational tools for diagnosis in plant clinics. She has made diverse and impressive contributions in the education of students and the public on plant diseases and disease diagnosis. Throughout her career, she has provided substantial contributions to APS. She is a high-impact scientist, diagnostician, and communicator and an outstanding representative of the best of our field.
Putnam has been a trailblazer in expanding our understanding of the fundamental biology of diseases caused by Rhodococcus fascians and Agrobacterium spp. R. fascians can infect over 100 plant species, and horticultural losses are estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Putnam was among the first to recognize this significant threat to the industry. In response, she built an impressive collaborative research effort that incorporates pathogen detection, disease transmission, epidemiology, and management of this persistent disease in nursery production systems, integrating traditional and modern molecular approaches. Putnam has led the effort to build partnerships to answer fundamental questions about this pathogen's biology, using the answers to help growers manage the disease while significantly expanding understanding of the organism. Putnam's significant contributions to research on R. fascians and her impacts on practical detection and management are internationally recognized. Although she has no research appointment, Putnam has built an impressive publication record with over 75 refereed manuscripts and chapters and has generated significant funding for her program (over $5 million). Putnam exemplifies a plant pathologist effectively providing a rigorous foundation of basic and applied information to solve real-world problems.
Beyond her groundbreaking research on R. fascians, Putnam has distinguished herself as a deeply committed, visionary, hands-on head of the Oregon State University Plant Disease Clinic. Putnam is a leader in the National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN), and her laboratory is a “key laboratory" in the 10-state Western Region of the NPDN, providing diagnostic support for Washington, Idaho, Utah, and Alaska. She leads a staff that includes multiple full- and part-time scientists, a postdoctoral scientist, and seven undergraduate students (and has personally diagnosed over 53,000 samples!). Over the course of her career, she has trained 66 students, providing hands-on experiences in disease diagnosis, pathogen detection and isolation, and effective communication to growers and the public. While these students contribute to the clinic's mission, Putnam's training produces a population of ambassadors for plant health, plant pathology, science, and the scientific method. For nearly 20 years, Putnam also has provided statewide master gardener training in disease diagnosis, including hands-on workshops and trains pesticide applicators annually. Putnam provided First Detector workshops for the general public on biosecurity and the importance of recognizing new or unusual disease symptoms and high-risk pests. Throughout these efforts, Putnam has been on the front lines of communicating our science to the public through speaking engagements and contributions to trade journals and to the PNW Plant Disease Management Handbook. She uses multiple forms of informational bulletins and web-based resources to convey to the general public information on new diseases, disease management, and pest problems. She has been a distinguished leader in efforts to target undergraduate and graduate students, master gardeners, and the general public with accessible information on the significance of plant diseases and the importance of accurate plant disease diagnosis to agriculture, forests, and natural ecosystems. Through these efforts, Putnam has contributed to the solution of real-world problems while enhancing the visibility of our science.
Beyond her contributions to science and the public, Putnam has played a significant role in service within the NPDN, the Western Region National Pest Diagnostic Network, diverse committees within Oregon State University, and most notably, APS. Putnam has served on multiple APS committees and has served as an associate editor (Plant Disease), senior editor (Plant Health Progress, APS PRESS), and on the Strategic Advisory Board of the Plant Management Network. Finally, Putnam has served as newsletter editor, councilor, and president for the Pacific Division and has received the Pacific Division's Distinguished Service Award in recognition of her contributions. Her service footprint is impressive.
Putnam has raised the bar on what a disease clinic can be and what it can do to serve as the nexus of interactions between science and real-world management. Putnam's responsiveness to the agricultural and horticultural industries in the Pacific Northwest has driven her development of cutting-edge science on plant disease etiology, diagnosis, and pathogen biology. Putnam targets some of the most challenging pathogens in her research program and has established a distinguished record of productivity and scientific insights that have moved our field forward. She has contributed significantly to our discipline and the horticultural industry. Putnam's model of responsiveness to the industry coupled with superb innovative science and public communication is an ideal aspirational model for our profession. Melodie Putnam is an accomplished scientist, an exemplary plant disease diagnostician, and is most deserving of recognition of her outstanding contributions by being recognized by the APS Fellow Award.