Jean Beagle Ristaino

William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor, Director Global Plant Health Program

100 Derieux Place | Box 7616 | NC State University | Raleigh, NC 27695 919 515-3257 office | 919 515-6988 fax | 919 412-7314 cell

Jean Beagle Ristaino earned her B.S. degree in Biological Sciences and M.S. degree in Plant Pathology from the University of Maryland, and her Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the University of California-Davis.  Upon graduation she joined the Department of Plant Pathology at North Carolina State University, advancing to full professor in 1998. She was named a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor in February of 2012. Much of Dr. Ristaino’s work has been on the Oomycete pathogens in the genus Phytophthora.  She works on the population genetics of historical potato famine epidemics and studies the population structure of present day late blight outbreaks.  Ristaino's lab was the first to develop pioneering research techniques to recover DNA from 150-year-old historic herbarium specimens and determine that the strain that caused the potato famine was a Ia mt haplotype.  Her work documented an Andean origin for P. infestans and tracked it migration to the US and Ireland.    She has also described new species of Phytophthora including P. andina the closest relative of P. infestans found in South America and she has developed taxonomic keys for identification.  Her research has been published in Nature, Science, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Her research uses molecular tools for addressing basic ecological questions concerning the spread of microorganisms in nature.   She conducts Phytophthora diagnostics workshops in Latin America. Dr. Ristaino’s late blight research has been featured on CNN, Discovery Channel, radio (NPR, BBC, Voice of America) and in newspaper and magazine articles. Dr. Ristaino’ research has not only impacted the understanding and direction of plant pathology, but has also influenced how the general public and policy makers view science and scientists.  She served as a Senior Science advisor and Jefferson Science Fellow at USAID Washington in the Bureau of Food Security in 2013 and continues to advise the agency on food security and emerging disease related issues.
P540-Tropical Plant Pathology  Class introduces students to agriculture in the tropics and diseases on tropical crops including cacao, banana, potato, root vegetables and coffee will be given. Trade issues relevant to US and Central American farmers are discussed. A week-long study abroad trip to Costa Rica is included and tours of coffee, banana, pineapple, tropical fruit, cacao and vegetable farms in the country are planned. Students learn conversational travel Spanish. Students will learn about the diseases, social and political issues facing farmers in the developing world.
PP495/590 NSF Global Plant Health Internships The International Research Experience for Students (IRES) in Global Plant Health funded by the National Science Foundation promotes discovery research using hands-on training in the tropics. The Global Plant Health Internship program requirements include a spring semester in class study of tropical plant pathology (PP540) at NC State University, followed by a fully funded 6 week summer research internship in Costa Rica and a fall special problems research course to complete the program. The internships are open to upper level undergraduates and graduate students. The IRES in Global Plant Health promotes discovery research using hands-on training in the tropics. The program is directed by Dr. Jean Ristaino, Dept of Plant Pathology and co-directed Dr Margo Daub, Dept of Plant Biology at NC State University .
Selected Publications: 
  1. Martin, M. D.,  Cappellini, E., Campos, P, Orlando. A. S., Orlando, L., Samaniego, J. A,  Ho, S. Y. W.,  Saville, A., Dietrich, F. S., Mieczkowski, P.,  Heitman, J.,Willerslev, E., Krogh, A.,  Ristaino, J. B., and Gilbert. M. P. T. 2013. Reconstructing genome evolution in historic samples of the Irish potato famine pathogen. Nature Communications DOI 10:1038/ ncomms1372.
  2. Lee, S.C, Ristaino, J. B. and Heitman, J.  2013.  Parallels in intercellular communication in oomycete and fungal pathogens of  plants and humans.  Plos Pearls 8(12): 1-4.
  3. Hu, C. H., Perez, F. G.,  Donahoo, R.,  McLeod, A., Myers, K.,  Ivors, K., Secor, G., Roberts,  P. D., Fry, W. E., Deahl, K. L., and Ristaino. J. B. 2012. Recent genotypes of Phytophthora infestans in eastern USA reveal clonal populations and reappearance of mefenoxam sensitivity. Plant Dis. 96: 1323-1330.
  4. Olivia, R. F., Flier, W., Kroon, L., Ristaino, J. B. and Forbes, G. A.  2010.  Phytophthora andina sp. Nov., a newly identified heterothallic pathogen of Solanaceous hosts in the Andean highlands.  Plant Pathology 59: 613-625.
  5. Haas, B. J., et al.  2009.  Genome sequence and comparative analysis of the Irish potato famine pathogen Phytophthora infestans.  Nature 461:393-398.
  6. Gomez, L. Hu, C., Olivia, R., Forbes, G.  and Ristaino, J. B.  2008.  Phylogenetic relationships of a new species, Phytophthora andina, from the highlands of Ecuador that is closely related to the Irish Potato famine pathogen Phytophthora infestans. Mycologia 100:590-602.
  7. Gomez, L., Carbone, I., and Ristaino, J. B.  2007.  An Andean origin for Phytophthora infestans inferred from nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequences.  Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 104:3306-3311.
  8. Avila-Adame, C., Gómez-Alpizar, L.,  Buell, R. C. and Ristaino, J. B. 2006. Mitochondrial genome sequencing of the haplotypes of the Irish Potato famine pathogen, Phytophthora infestans. Curr. Gen. 49:39-46.
  9. May, K. J. and Ristaino, J. B.  2004.  Identify of the Mitochondrial DNA Haplotype(s) of Phytophthora infestans in Historical Specimens from the Irish Potato Famine.  Mycol. Res. 108:171-179.
  10. Ristaino, J. B., Groves, C. T., and Parra, G. 2001.  PCR Amplification of the Irish Potato Famine Pathogen from Historic Specimens.  Nature 41:695-697.