Campus: Sonoma State University -- September 18, 2002
SSU Garners $810,657 Grant To Predict Spread Of
Sudden Oak Death With Geographic Modeling, Satellite Systems
The National Science Foundation has awarded an $810,657 grant to Sonoma
State University and UC Davis researchers to use a geographic modeling
system to track and predict the spread of Sudden Oak Death, a plant
disease that has reached epidemic levels in the coastal ranges of California.
This multidisciplinary research grant from the NSF will allow geographers
and biologists at Sonoma State University and UC Davis to collaboratively
study the critical factors in the environment and host species that
contribute to the spread of Phytophthora ramorum, the fungus known to
be the cause of the disease.
Leading the effort is Dr. Ross Meentemeyer, director of the university's
Geographic Information Systems lab. He will be assisted by SSU biology
professors, Drs. Hall Cushman, Nathan Rank and Richard Whitkus and plant
pathologist Dr. David Rizzo of UC-Davis.
The grant will be paid in increments over the next four years.
The researchers will be using geographic modeling and remote sensing
technologies, in combination with fieldwork and DNA lab analysis, to
characterize spatial patterns of disease factors including the genetic
background of host species; plant community structure; and environmental
This data is being integrated in a computer simulation model to forecast
changes in the distribution of the disease across Sonoma County's landscape.
Model predictions will identify critical factors that influence the
distribution of SOD and provide predictions of habitat loss from disease.
The computer model will also help develop management strategies for
susceptible forests and test regulations designed to prevent long distance
spread of the pathogen, a threat that could drastically alter woodlands
and forests in California and elsewhere in the USA.
The grant will also allow fostering of participation of undergraduates
in cross-disciplinary research and integrate the research into the curriculum
of core courses in the biology and geography departments at the SSU.
Sudden Oak Death is spreading rapidly, much like the Chestnut Blight
in eastern North America during the early 20th century, and has the
potential of completely changing the face of our treasured California
landscapes, Meentmemeyer says.
"Although great progress has been made in understanding the basic
biology of the pathogen, very little is known on how the pathogen is
spreading so quickly and which areas are at greatest risk of infection."
Seventeen plant species are known to be susceptible to the disease,
several of which are keystone species of California ecosystems, such
as Coast Live Oak, Black Oak, Tanoak, and Bay Laurel. Evidence of the
disease has now also been found in Douglas Fir saplings at the SSU's
Fairfield Osborn Preserve and among redwoods in other parts of the region.
For further information, contact Dr. Ross Meentemeyer, (707) 664-2558