Fred C. Davidson Early Career Scholar Award
Caterina Villari, an assistant professor in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, has built a highly productive research program bridging basic and applied forest pathology and spanning disciplines from molecular disease diagnostics to tree defense mechanisms. Her laboratory examines tree pathology, particularly interactions among trees, fungal pathogens and insect herbivores. She applies cutting-edge molecular techniques to diagnose critical forest pathogens directly in the field. Her group is also exploring a new way to identify traits within seedlings that could help them ward off disease. Using vibrational spectroscopy technology, which allows rapid “fingerprinting” of chemical compounds in trees, her team phenotypes resistance in seedlings. These fingerprints, for instance, can identify pines with increased resistance to fusiform rust, a fungus affecting Southern forests. She co-founded and co-directs the Southern Pine Health Research Cooperative (SPHRC), officially launched during fall 2018 and the first of its kind at the Warnell School.