New faculty profile: Paul Koch, turfgrass pathologist

KochFacultyPortrait[1]Paul Koch joined CALS on Jan. 1 as an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and a UW-Extension turfgrass pathology specialist.

Briefly describe your career path—up to this point.
I completed my undergraduate degree in Horticulture and Soil Science at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2005 with a focus on turfgrass management.  I also completed my M.S. at Wisconsin in the Department of Plant Pathology, conducting research on the development of fungicide resistance on golf courses.  Following my M.S. I took over management of the University of Wisconsin’s Turfgrass Diagnostic Lab, diagnosing over 200 turfgrass samples annually for disease, insect, or other pest problems on samples submitted from all over the country.  In 2008 I began work on my Ph.D. in Plant Pathology with a minor in Molecular and Environmental Toxicology, also at Wisconsin.  My research focused on the impact of various environmental conditions on the persistence of common turfgrass fungicides.

What is the main focus of your research program?
My research and extension programs focus on reducing the negative, non-target impacts of turfgrass management in urban and suburban environments with an emphasis on more sustainable disease management practices.  Turfgrass remains an important piece of the urban and suburban landscape, and if maintained properly can provide numerous environmental benefits.  However, certain turf maintenance practices can have a negative impact on the environment and can increase risk associated with pesticide exposure in certain animal and human populations.  Reducing the negative impacts of turfgrass management, while still providing quality turfgrass, will provide both environmental and human health benefits to urban and suburban communities.

What drew you to UW-Madison?
I’m obviously familiar with the high quality of life associated with Madison and the high quality of research associated with the UW and CALS.  However, it took interviews for faculty positions at two other respected academic institutions to realize the quality of the graduate students at UW.  The passion and engagement of the graduate students so apparent at UW was strikingly absent during my other interviews, and that left a lasting impression.

What do you like to do outside of work?
I enjoy traveling, reading, and of course…Badger sports.