Sarah obtained her PhD in plant pathology in 1995 from Lincoln University, New Zealand and subsequently worked as a plant pathologist in Canada. Since 2001 Sarah has been the senior forest pathologist leading the pathology group at Forest Research’s Northern Research Station, conducting research into a range of tree diseases and disorders including birch dieback, horse chestnut bleeding canker and drought stress. Currently she manages Forest Research’s Programme on Understanding Biotic Threats to Resilience and is the Principal Investigator on the interdisciplinary PHYTO-THREATS LWEC Phase 3 project which addresses global threats from Phytophthora species. Her main research interests are distribution, detection methods, biology and evolutionary genetics of forest pathogens, with a particular recent focus on emerging Phytophthora diseases.
Impact: Determine the main barriers to ensuring that future planting for environmental restoration and conservation will minimise plant health risks.
Impact: Provide Scottish Government policy with an assessment of the major biosecurity pitfalls and opportunities arising from large-scale landscaping plantings.
Impact: This project will enable policy to identify and prioritise plant biosecurity vulnerabilities from non-specialist and online horticultural sales.
Impact: Timely management and prioritisation of policy to manage P. ramorum and facilitate early forecasting of other Phytophthora outbreaks.
Impact: Add to the evidence base underpinning public and sector-facing biosecurity campaigns and improve disease management and restrict spread of the disease.
Metabarcoding analysis of Phytophthora diversity in spore traps and implications for disease forecasting in the P. ramorum management zone
Surveillance and monitoring of airborne pathogens is a key tool in the management of healthy forests and controlling disease outbreaks. A Scottish Forestry-funded project was carried out in autumn 2019 to validate different spore-trapping techniques for monitoring airborne P. ramorum inoculum using a species-specific qPCR assay. This project aimed to add further value to the Scottish Forestry project by investigating the suitability of DNA metabarcoding for screening spore trap samples for P. ramorum and other Phytophthora species, seeking early data for aerially dispersed Phytophthora species that may become problematic in UK forests. The study highlighted the value of both monitoring P. ramorum dispersal and detecting other Phytophthora species, to predict and understand changes in disease severity in UK tree host species. Recommendations included that the use of both rain and wind-borne inoculum capture methods might be advantageous due to the variety of weather conditions under which inoculum can disperse. Lineage testing in Southwest Scotland should be carried out to look at the prevalence of lineage EU1 in the EU2 area and to monitor for presence of North American lineages. Development of a new DNA barcode more specific to Phytophthora would be beneficial.