“The WSDA is providing plant samples that have tested positive,” Coats said. “Their tests,” she explained, “show that the pathogen is present. We take it one step further, using the molecular lab to genetically fingerprint the pathogen in an attempt to identify different strains of the pathogen. We can determine if they are persisting in nurseries or if new strains of the pathogen are being regularly introduced into nurseries. If we can track how the strains are spreading, we can more effectively eradicate them.”
The molecular lab is also helping Sumner High School sophomore students Becca Humphries and Alexandra Montano gain hands-on microbiology experience as they conduct real-life experiments. Both students consider themselves emerging microbiologists. They look at this experience as an opportunity to become more involved in science. They are working with Coats as part of an FFA program under the direction of their advisor, Greg Pile.