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New faculty profile: Leslie Holland focuses on pathogens of Wisconsin fruit crops

Leslie Holland joined the UW–Madison faculty in August 2020 as an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and a fruit crop pathology extension specialist in the Division of Extension.

What is your hometown? Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Yellow Springs, Ohio. So after spending my college and graduate school years out west, it’s great to be back in the Midwest!

What is your educational/professional background, including your previous position?
I completed my bachelor’s degree in biology at New Mexico State University. I received my M.S. and Ph.D. in plant pathology from Washington State University and UC Davis, respectively.

How did you get into your field of research?
My interest in plant pathology actually started right here at UW–Madison! I was participating in a summer internship in horticulture when I was exposed to plant pathology problems in the field. I never considered that plants could get ‘sick’, I was puzzled but intrigued! I love the problem-solving and interdisciplinary aspects of my field.

What are the main goals of your current research program?
The goals of my research program are to 1) diagnose diseases affecting fruit production in Wisconsin, 2) study the pathogens that cause these diseases, 3) determine how environmental factors impact the spread of pathogens, and 4) provide management solutions for current and emerging diseases of fruit crops in Wisconsin. Wisconsin has several fruit crop industries including cranberries, apples, grapes, cherries, and berries. 

What attracted you to UW–Madison?
UW–Madison is a leading institution for agricultural research, especially in plant pathology. The department has a rich history in extension and serving the diverse commodities grown in the state. As an extension specialist, the opportunity to work directly with stakeholders was very appealing to me, and I am eager to engage and learn from them.

And did I mention the lake views in Madison!!

What was your first visit to campus like?
My very first visit was during a summer internship at UW–Madison during my undergraduate. I have great memories of biking around campus, enjoying live shows at the terrace, and (frequently) visiting the Babcock dairy store for ice cream.

Do you share your expertise and experiences with the public through social media? If so, which channels do you use?
Yes, I am on Twitter! Usually posting about plant diseases and photos of my dog – a little something for everyone. Follow me @LeslieHolland_

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how.
Definitely! Being an extension specialist allows me to work directly with the stakeholders that my research will impact, and solve current problems in the fruit crop industries. This is an excellent opportunity for exchange between scientists and the agricultural producers in the state. This upholds the Wisconsin Idea by providing far reaching impacts for the improvement of agriculture in the state.

What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter at parties?
Wisconsin is the leading producer of cranberries in the US! Cranberries do not grow in water, despite that popular belief. They grow in sandy marshes and when they are ready for harvest the marshes are flooded and the cranberries float to the top.

What are your hobbies and other interests?
I enjoy cooking, hiking, and fitness. And now that I live in Madison I look forward to enjoying the lakes.