Dorien Oppelaar is an international visiting scholar at the University of Florida working in citrus diseases. Oppelaar had contributed to analyze the genomes sequences of a citrus fungal pathogen which causes a disease that steals fruit and profits from producers statewide.
“We are looking at post bloom fruit drop because it is another citrus disease that threaten growers in this area and needs work,” said Oppelaar.
Infected fruit with the causal agent Colletotrichum acutatum will simply drop off a tree before reaching full development. Oppelaar’s research as a visiting scholar is on the genomics side of the disease, in an effort to generate genomic resources of the pathogen to facilitate the identification of sequences encoding for pathogenicity related effector genes.
Oppelaar is pursuing a Master of Science in Plant Biotechnology with a specialization in Molecular Plant Breeding and Plant Pathology at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Her graduate work is supervised by Dr. Vivianne Vleeshouwers, a scientist who is among world-leaders in effectoromics, an useful tool that uses effectors to probe plant germplasm to detect resistant genes.
An outstanding student, Oppelaar is currently working with Dr. Liliana Cano at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC) in Fort Pierce. Cano and Vleeshouwers are colleagues.
Oppelaar said the opportunity to work in Cano’s laboratory is a valuable step in her studies on effectors proteins and their role in plant disease. “Hopefully we will learn how to better protect the plant and help it to better resist the pathogen,” said Oppelaar.
When Oppelaar completes her internship in Florida, she intends to seek a doctorate at a university where she will be able to advance her studies on plant breeding and pathology.