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Efrat Gamliel-Atinsky Student Travel Grant

APS member Harald Scherm developed this fund, along with friends, family, and colleagues from the University of Georgia (UG) and from Israel, in honor of his post-doctoral student, Efrat Gamliel-Atinsky, who was tragically killed in an automobile accident in southern Israel in March 2010 after another vehicle crossed the center line and struck her car. This travel grant is bestowed in her memory to an outstanding student pursuing research in the broad areas of epidemiology, pathogen ecology, and population biology who wishes to present their research at an APS Annual Meeting.​

Efrat Gamliel-Atinsky 

Efrat Gamliel-Atinsky (1970–2010) was born in Nes-Ziona, Israel, on
January 28, 1970. She earned both a B.Sc.Agr. degree in plant protection and environmental studies (1996) and an M.Sc. degree in plant protection sciences (1999) from the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, faculty of agricultural, food, and environmental quality sciences, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her M.Sc. degree research, conducted under the supervision of Dani Shtienberg and Amos Dinoor at the Volcani Center, was focused on developing a model to predict the timing of maturation and dissemination of ascospores of Didymella rabiei to optimize the management of Ascochyta blight in Israel. As part of her thesis work, she also determined the prevalence of the two mating types and the aggressiveness of the pathogen population in Israel and examined the influence of fungicide application timing to suppress the disease. Upon graduation, Gamliel-Atinsky joined the Hebrew University Botanical Gardens as the curator of the Asian plant collection and as an instructor of plant protection courses for professional horticulture students. She subsequently worked for the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture as the chief inspector and export coordinator in charge of international export agreements at the Plant Protection and Inspections Services and for Good Water Neighbors—Friends of the Earth Middle East as a coordinator for a regional water project involving cross-border communities sharing a common water source, promoting environmental awareness and peace-building.

In 2003, Gamliel-Atinsky returned to the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology at the Hebrew University, entering the Ph.D. program in plant protection sciences under the direction of Stanley Freeman, Abraham Sztejnberg, and Eric Palevsky. She took on the challenging topic of elucidating the epidemiology of Fusarium mangiferae, specifically the interaction between the pathogen and the mango bud mite Aceria mangiferae in the epidemiology of mango malformation disease, a topic that had been researched for more than 130 years previously without much insight. In her dissertation research, the role of the bud mite in carrying conidia of F. mangiferae, vectoring them into potential infection sites, and assisting fungal infection and dissemination was clarified. Following the mite’s exposure to a green fluorescent protein-marked isolate of the pathogen, conidia were found in bud bracts only when both mites and conidia were co-inoculated on the plant, demonstrating that the mite vectored the conidia into the apical bud. No windborne bud mites bearing conidia were found, but large numbers of windborne conidia were detected in spore collectors. Collectively, these results showed that A. mangiferae can carry and vector the pathogen to the apical bud and assist in fungal penetration, but the mite does not appear to play a role in the aerial dissemination of conidia.  

While completing her dissertation, Gamliel-Atinsky was awarded a prestigious Vaadia-Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund, U.S.-Israel (BARD) fellowship to work with Scherm in the Department of Plant Pathology at UG. Her post-doctoral research, which was initiated in spring 2009, focused on the epidemiology and vector relations of bacterial leaf scorch, a novel disease of blueberry in the southeastern United States caused by Xylella fastidiosa. She worked to develop and validate a qPCR-based assay for monitoring populations of the pathogen, with the goal of applying this assay to blueberry leaf and stem samples to quantify the temporal dynamics of disease development in the field. She collaborated closely with entomologists studying leafhopper vector relations and extension scientists seeking to develop management options against bacterial leaf scorch. Her broad-based expertise in plant disease epidemiology and her amazing willingness to help others were admired by all who worked with and knew her. Her incredible energy and positive outlook charged the enthusiasm of graduate students, staff, and faculty alike.