VALDOSTA — Dr. Emily Cantonwine, professor of mycology and plant pathology at Valdosta State University, studies fungal diseases and methods for control. Her findings can be used to determine fungicide effectiveness and to reduce disease development.
This summer, Cantonwine provided 11 students with the opportunity to get firsthand experience studying fungi during a Maymester trip to Ireland.
"The cool and wet climate in Ireland is great for fungal growth, so we felt like we would have a good chance of finding a variety of fungi there," said Cantonwine. “In addition, I developed the study abroad course because I studied abroad in the Bahamas when I was an undergraduate. It was a great experience for me and I wanted to provide a similar opportunity for my students.”
The country's history also includes a great famine caused by the fungus-like pathogen Phytophthora infestans. The Irish Potato Famine began in 1845 and spanned seven years - leading to the spread of disease, starvation and eventually emigration. It was the study of the late blight pathogen in response to the Irish Potato Famine that advanced the field to what is now call modern mycology.
The Maymester trip included weeks of collecting and processing samples in labs. The students visited Dublin and Waterford.
"We found lichens at and around cemeteries and at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin," said Cantonwine. "We also searched in the woods and visited an Agricultural Research Station to see some of the fungal pathogens found in Ireland."
Lectures and lab work were done at the Waterford Institute of Technology.
While in Dublin, students also visited the Book of Kells at Trinity College and toured the Wicklow Mountains to examine airborne fungal spores.
For Natalia Stevens, a senior at VSU, one of the highlights of the trip was touring the Guinness brewery in Dublin.