Athina Koutouleas is one of our ’40 Faces of Plant Pathology’
BSPP members can be found in 51 different countries, with 30% of members based in countries outside of the UK. As part of the BSPPs 40th anniversary, we asked our membership to describe some things about themselves, what plant pathology challenges they would most like to see solved, and what could improve the world of plant pathology in terms of inclusivity. Click here to return to 40 Faces Home Page.
Institution and country of residence
Copenhagen University, Denmark
Area of expertise/study
I have set my early career goals on elucidating insights around the potential alternate host of Hemileia vastatrix (causal fungal pathogen of Coffee Leaf Rust Disease). There is no doubt that coffee means a great deal to a great number of people (actually around 100 – 125 million worldwide depend -directly or indirectly on the perennial crop). I myself find the mystery which surrounds H. vastatrix captivating. Cryptosexuality of uredospores? Ancestral dead-ends? Basidiospores intended for no other plant? The controversy which surrounds whether an alternate host ever existed (or still does today) has lured me to conduct botanical assessments which I hope will one day help answer this question.
About your early experiences in education
Bachelor in human biology which led to a brief stint in the pharmaceutical sciences until plants lured me in and led me to a Masters in Agricultural Sciences and today PhD program in Agroforestry and Eco-physiology.
If you could solve one problem in plant pathology, what would it be?
To find the alternate plant host of H. vastatrix.
If you could solve one issue relating to inclusivity and diversity within the field of plant pathology what would it be?
To make plant pathology “sexy” to a greater audience! Encourage more undergraduate students from diverse disciplines to get involved in the plant pathology community e.g. take a course, take a walk with an expert, take an interests. Everyone has to eat – thus plant health is just as crucial as human health, yet the entwined connection between these two research fields are seldom made.
If you weren’t a plant pathologist, what would you be?
A “tree-keeper” living somewhere remotely in the tropics, scowling and chasing away illegal logging attempts.