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John M. Barnes Student Travel Award

Colleagues and friends established this award in honor of Dr. Barnes for the contributions that he has made to the science of plant pathology through his research and service.


John Barnes

John M Barnes retired in 1997 as national program leader in plant pathology in the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) of the USDA. Born in Washington, DC, on April 22, 1931, he earned a B.S. degree at the University of Maryland in the Botany Department, majoring in plant pathology. He obtained M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at Cornell University under Dr. Carol Boothroyd. His doctorate research was completed in 1960 and uncovered previously undefined biochemical mechanisms of stalk rot resistance and susceptibility in maize.

His initial professional experience was in operations research on crop vulnerability and energy systems at Johns Hopkins University Operations Research Office (later Research Analysis Corporation) in Bethesda, MD. In 1963, he joined Resources Research, Inc. of Washington, DC, where he conducted various pollution-related studies, as well as the NASA-funded Gulliver project for detection of life on the planet Mars. His Gulliver studies contributed to the feasibility of Carbon-14 tagging in detection of extraterrestrial metabolism.

In 1967, he joined the then-named Cooperative State Research Service (CSRS) of the USDA in Washington, DC, as a plant pathologist. He worked initially under the tuteledge of the legendary Dr. John Fulkerson, gaining insights on the evaluation of biological research and the “network of excellence” concept espoused by Fulkerson. It was not very long after joining CSRS that Dr. Barnes was thrust into the middle of the southern corn leaf blight (SCLB) epidemic of 1970. He led the establishment of an emergency Special Research Grants Program on SCLB, focused on buttressing land-grant university research on the problem, and in late 1970, he was appointed to head up the Corn Blight Information Center. In 1972, he was awarded the Departmental Award of Merit for his leadership in the SCLB arena.

Throughout his career of service to science, Dr. Barnes applied the “network of excellence” philosophy in collaborating with university and federal scientists to obtain funding for a variety of special research grant programs and environmental monitoring networks. These efforts resulted in the formation of a national mycotoxin information database, a nematode culture collections network, a national microbial germplasm network, and a university-federal-industry ultraviolet-B terrestrial monitoring program. He also applied the “network” philosophy to organizing peer panels for reviews of scores of plant pathology and related departments in land-grant universities. Dr. Barnes also helped organize and obtain funding for several national and international conferences assessing the state of science, as well as the array of potential solutions to a wide variety of plant disease problems.

From 1957 to 1977, he served as USDA pesticide coordinator in the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture. Following his return to CSRS, Dr. Barnes participated in nonagriculture conferences on interdisciplinary training and research. With this exposure to the challenges of interdisciplinary training and research in the early 1980s, he engaged plant science professional society leaders and USDA sister research agencies in debate on a plant health care concept, but a process that contributed to reduced insularity of agriculture discipline science in federal laboratories and university departments. For leadership here, Barnes was awarded a Departmental Award of Merit in 1985. In this phase of his career, he also took over the planning and management of the funding for a national “acid rain” research and monitoring network, established a few years earlier by Dr. Fulkerson and other colleagues. This national program evolved into the world’s largest atmosphere deposition monitoring program, measuring not only acidic deposition, but also other chemical species deposited in precipitation. Through the efforts of the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP) administered from the Office of the President of the United States, there arose broad agreement in the need for more substantial research on this environmental problem. Dr. Barnes collaborated with NAPAP and others to initiate a CSRS special agricultural research grants program on acidic precipitation. During this program’s six years, significant new findings of importance to decision-makers were made. For his leadership in establishing and managing this program, he was presented a Departmental Award of Merit in 1988. In 1991, he was appointed to temporary assignment as senior scientist in the NAPAP Office of the Director, in the Executive Office of the President, evaluating research on acidic deposition biological impacts, as well as deposition monitoring results. His assignment was extended to 1993, when he returned to his parent agency, newly reorganized and renamed CSREES.

Throughout his three decades of service, Dr. Barnes served as a strong advocate for plant pathology, nematology, and virology at all levels of science and government. For several years, he represented APS as corresponding science societies representative to the national academy of sciences and its National Research Council’s Commission on Life Sciences. He drew upon diverse databases to analyze funding patterns and describe research opportunities. He wrote Phytopathology and Journal of Nematology papers on these topics, and also made presentations on his findings at society annual meetings. He served on the APS Sustaining Associated Committee, and for most of his career was advisor to APS Council and the APS Department Heads Committee. He continued work on research needs for combatting plant diseases and air quality problems until his retirement in 1997. He resides with his wife, Pauline, in suburban Montgomery County, MD.