I first started thinking about plants as weeds when I was interviewing for the graduate program at Cornell before starting my PhD. I was explaining my MS work on restoration of native plant species to Dr. Toni DiTommaso, a weed ecologist who ended up co-chairing my PhD committee, when he asked, “You know all these plants you’re trying to restore are weeds, right?”. This led to a great conversation about “weedy” plant traits and when people might consider a plant to be a weed, and ultimately my acceptance into Cornell, and my career in weed science.
My research focuses on precision integrated weed management, which I sum up using an anaphora similar to the 4Rs of nutrient management: weed management is most efficient and effective when you use the right tool (chemical, mechanical, biological, cultural, preventative), at the right intensity, the right time, and the right place. Right now I am involved in several ongoing projects:
- Understanding the combined influence of local weather patterns, crop rotation, cover cropping, and herbicide programs on cover crop performance, weed population dynamics, and water management in soybean production systems
- Adapting harvest weed seed control technology (a variety of methods that reduce or eliminate seed from weeds that survive to maturity from being returned to the soil seedbank at harvest) developed in Australia to US cropping systems
- Developing computer-vision tools for automated detection, mapping, and monitoring of weed populations. There are a number of projects in this area, including developing datasets to train artificial intelligence to recognize individual weed and crop species, engineering and calibrating camera systems, and deploying the systems and evaluating their performance as well as the end-user experience so that they can be iteratively refined and applied across a broad range of use cases.
Most recently I was a NIFA Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Delaware and the USDA-ARS Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory, where I coordinated research activities for GROW (Getting Rid Of Weeds; www.growiwm.org), a national, scientist-led research and extension network focused on combating the herbicide resistance epidemic through precision integrated weed management. Some of the more interesting jobs I’ve done along the way include working in a printshop/book bindery, doing overnight dispatch for the campus police during undergrad, and teaching science to elementary school students while pursuing my MS.
I currently have active collaborations with researchers in Denmark (computer vision systems for weed and crop mapping) and Australia (separate collaborations on agricultural robotics and harvest weed seed control).
The WSSA (Weed Science Society of America) Annual Meeting is my favorite conference because weed science is a small, tight-knit community and it’s a lot of fun to meet up each year to learn what everyone else has been up to. International Weed Science Congresses are also a blast, especially getting to see how crops are grown and weeds are managed in different parts of the world.
The energy and enthusiasm in the department is exceptional and I am very excited to be a part of the team!
I love to explore new places, either locally or when traveling and usually while spending time with family and friends, and that occupies most of my time when not working. My hobbies include reading, playing games of all sorts, visiting libraries and museums, hiking, backpacking, kayaking, yoga, and weightlifting.