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Michael Wunsch

Michael Wunsch completed the requirements for a Ph.D. degree in the Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology at Cornell University in May 2010. He conducted his Ph.D. research in Gary Bergstrom's program on two soilborne diseases of forage legumes. Michael characterized the fungal pathogen responsible for the decline of the once prosperous birdsfoot trefoil seed industry in the Lake Champlain Valley of New York and Vermont. He demonstrated that the pathogen is a single monophyletic strain of fungus across its known geographic range, with a unique host range, thus supporting the naming of this pathogen as a novel form species, Fusarium oxypsorum f. sp. loti. Michael also conducted extensive studies of the biology and epidemiology of brown root rot of alfalfa caused by the fungus Phoma sclerotioides. On the basis of strongly supported genetic and morphological differences among isolates in a large North American collection, he established seven infraspecific varieties within P. sclerotioides. This knowledge is indispensible to breeders who will select alfalfa genotypes with broad resistance to brown root rot. Michael was the recipient of research grants from the New York State IPM Program, the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program and the Northeast Regional IPM Grants Program. Michael was recipient of the Keikhefer Adirondack Fellowship, the Barbara McClintock Award for Excellence in Plant Sciences and the Malcolm Shurtleff Travel Award from APS. Michael is currently a Plant Pathologist at North Dakota State University's Carrington Research Extension Center where he conducts research and extension on diseases affecting several field crops grown in North Dakota.