Kristen Wickert, from Bethlehem, PA, is a doctoral candidate under the direction of Dr. Matthew Kasson, Assistant Professor of forest pathology in the Division of Plant and Soil Sciences. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Forest Biology from The Pennsylvania State University in 2011. After earning her undergraduate degree, Kristen was a Forester for the Texas Forest Service. The varied experiences with her career exposed her to the many sides of forestry, including: urban forestry, water resource management, plantation silviculture, best land management practices, fire management, and—of course—forest health and pest management. The exposure to many states’ forest pest management teams, including Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania kindled her passion of forest health which led her to pursue a master’s degree in plant pathology at WVU.
Kristen completed her Masters at WVU in focusing on the ecology and efficacy of an insect pathogen, Lecanicillium muscarium, as a potential fungal biological control of the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) on eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). This project collaborated with The U.S.D.A. Forest Service’s Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team (FHTET) and Forest Health Protection (FHP). Kristen was able to work with several natural resource management professionals in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland on this project.
Dr. Kasson and Kristen previously were successful in using a fungal biocontrol against the incredibly invasive tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) in 2012-2013. Their experience inoculating tree-of-heaven with Verticillium nonalfalfae to produce fatal wilt of the woody species inspired them to continue research on the vascular wilt pathogen in 2016. For her doctoral degree, Kristen will be focusing on further understanding the relationship in-depth Verticillium disease complex and the interactions created involving multiple pathogens, ambrosia beetles and new possible hosts.
Kristen is also the teaching assistant for Forest Pest Management course and the instructor for General Plant Pathology taught here at WVU.