Title: Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology
College: Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Pathology
Curriculum vitae: PDF
Research Interests: Plant pathogen population genetics and evolution, host-pathogen coevolution, molecular evolution of virulence
Hobbies: Playing with her son, gardening
Dr. Erica Goss’ research uses genetic and genomic data to understand the ecology and evolution of populations of plant pathogens and plant-associated microbes. The long-term goal of her research is to determine the factors that contribute to the emergence of destructive pathogens and their continued success as they evolve in new environments and on new hosts.
Her research has focused on the processes that have led to present-day geographic distributions and diversity of plant pathogen populations. Her work is driven by conceptual questions rather than particular systems; thus, her lab studies bacterial, fungal and oomycete pathogens. Working across diverse pathosystems can lead to general models for plant pathogen emergence. For example, multiple different pathogens have populations characterized by key long-distance migration events and exhibit evidence of genetic exchange among distinct evolutionary lineages.
Prior to arriving at UF, Goss’ work was on the emerging sudden oak death pathogen, P. ramorum. This is an exotic and damaging disease of coast live oaks and tanoaks in California and Japanese larch plantations in the United Kingdom. The pathogen is present in ornamental nurseries on the West Coast and in the Southeast and has been moved by the plant trade. Goss described the evolutionary history of the three clonal lineages found in North America and Europe and calculated that they likely diverged many tens to hundreds of thousands of years prior to their introduction. This level of divergence suggests that the lineages were not introduced from a single source population and that three different migration pathways are likely responsible for the three introductions of this pathogen to the plant trade. Using rapidly mutating microsatellites, Goss inferred migration pathways for P. ramorum-infected plants in US nurseries that were consistent with shipping records obtained during investigations by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Goss’ analysis also shows strong support that one of the lineages present in North America was introduced via Europe. This work shows the potential value of genetic markers in tracking the movement of exotic pathogens, and Goss plans to extend this work to examine the local and global migration of other Phytophthora pathogens.