Jean Ristaino

William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor,  Director Emerging Plant Disease and Global Food Security Cluster

Office 2419 Gardner Hall Lab 2503 Thomas Hall  NC State University  Raleigh, NC 27695
919 515-3257 office | 919 515-6988 fax | 919 515-6808 lab


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 serves as a Senior Science advisor and Jefferson Science Fellow at USAID Washington in the Bureau of Food Security.

Visit my lab

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

Martin, M., Vieira, F. G., Ho,S. Y. W., Wales, N.,Schubert, M., Sequine-Orlando, A. Ristaino, J. B. and Gilbert, T. 2015.  Genomic characterization of a South American Phytophthora hybrid mandates reassessment of the geographic origins of Phytophthora infestans . Mol. Biol. Evol. doi:10.1093/molbev/msv241.

Fry, W. E, Birch, P.R. J.,  Judelson, H. S.,  Grunwald, N. J., Danies, G.,  Everts, K. L.,  Gevens, A. J.,  Gugino, B. K.,  Johnson, D. A.,  Johnson, S. B.,  McGrath, M. T., . Myers, K. L., Ristaino, J. B.,  Roberts, P. D.,  Secor, G.,  Smart, C. D.  Five reasons to consider Phytophthora infestansa reemerging pathogen.  Phytopathology 105: 966-981.

Saville, A, Graham, K., Grünwald, N.J., Myers, K., Fry, W.E., Ristaino, J.B. 2015. Fungicide sensitivity of US genotypes of Phytophthora infestans to six oomycete-targeted compounds. Plant Dis. 99: 659-666.

Danies, G., Myers, K., Mideros, M. F., Restrepo, S., Martin, F. N., Cooke, D. E. L., Smart, C. D., Ristaino, J. B., Seaman, A., Gugino, B., Grünwald, N. J., and Fry, W. E.  2014.  An ephemeral sexual population of Phytophthora infestans in the northeastern United States and Canada.  PLoS ONE 9.  doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0116354.

Kamoun, S., Furzer, O., Jones, J. D. G., Judelson, H. S., Shad Ali, G., Dalio, R. J. D., Guha Roy, S., Schena, L., Zampounis, A., Panabières, F., Cahill, D., Ruocco, M., Figueiredo, A., Chen, X. R., Hulvey, J., Stam, R., Lamour, K., Gijzen, M., Tyler, B. M., Grünwald, N. J., Tör, M., Shahid Mukhtar, M., Tome, D., Van den Ackerveken, G., McDowell, J., Daayf, F., Fry, W. E., Lindqvist-Kreuze, H., Meijer, H. J. G., Petre, B., Ristaino, J., Yoshida, K., Birch, P., and Govers, F. 2014. The Top 10 oomycete pathogens in molecular plant pathology. Mol. Plant Pathol.16:413-434 DOI: 10.1111/mpp.12190.

Lassiter, E.S., Russ, C., Nusbaum, C., Zeng, Q., Saville, A.C., Olarte, R.A., Carbone, I., Hu, C.H., Seguin-Orlando, A., Samaniego, J.A., Thorne, J.L., Ristaino, J.B. 2015.  Mitochondrial genome sequences reveal evolutionary relationships of the Phytophthora 1c clade species.Curr. Genet. 61: 567-577 doi: 10.1007/s00294-015-0480-3

Martin, M. D., Ho, S. Y., Wales, N.,  Ristaino, J. B. and Gilbert, M.T.P. 2014. Persistence of the mitochondrial lineage responsible for the Irish potato famine in extant New World Phytophthora infestans. Molecular Biol. Evol. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msu08

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.

Fry, W. E.,  McGrath, M. T., Seaman, A., Zitter, T. A., McLeod, A., Danies, G.,  Small, I. M., Myers, K.,  Everts, K., Gevens, A. J., Gugino, B.,  Johnson, S. B.,  Judelson, H., Ristaino, J. B., Roberts, P., B.  Secor, G., Seebold, K. W., Jr., Snover-Clift, K. L., Wyenandt, A.,  Grunwald, N. J., Smart, C. D.  2013.  The 2009 Late Blight Pandemic in Eastern USA- causes and results.  Plant Dis. 96: 296-306.

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. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003028.