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Jonathan Winslow, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

Jonathan is a first year graduate student in Dr. Kelly Ivors’ lab at Cal Poly, SLO. Growing up on the coast, south of San Francisco, he was aware of the fruit and vegetables being grown in the area. He earned his undergraduate degree in 2014 at UC Santa Cruz in the Environmental Studies/Agroecology program.

Upon graduating he worked in industry where he conducted research on using soil amendments to control diseases affecting strawberry production. This experience reinforced in him that growing crops successfully means learning about diseases and how to control them. He developed an interest to learn more about soil-borne diseases, amendments, and methods to control crop diseases and improve soil health. Thankfully, his employers sent him to professional meetings that focused on soil pathogens where he met Dr. Kelly Ivors, who had recently taken a position at Cal Poly. These meetings encouraged Jonathan to want to learn the science at a deeper level, so he left his job and began working in Dr. Ivors’ lab marking the first stages as a graduate student.

Initially there were no guarantees of funding for the research so this transition was indeed a leap of faith, but Jonathan felt getting involved with this research would be worth the risk. Shortly after he started, Dr. Ivors received ARI funding and now Jonathan is a paid research assistant.

This fall, he will start a Master’s thesis project at SLO where his objective are to identify commercial strawberry cultivars and soil amendments that confer resistance against an emerging pathogen. He already began working in the field and lab to get a head start in his research. Most of the difficulty he has experienced to date is in developing methods that will be used to sample, identify and quantify this pathogen.

Regarding his research project, a big challenge for him is to narrowly define the problem, develop discrete objectives and an approach to achieve those objectives. He believes that learning more about microbiology will be the key to knowing how things work and the research-based evidence from these studies is the right approach for developing crop management plans. While he appreciates the academic side of the research, his industry experience gave him greater appreciation for the difficulties of farming and making ends meet. After completing his Master’s program, Jonathan intends to pursue a Ph.D. and hopes to stay in California.