Nicola Spence 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
UK Chief Plant Health Officer
Area of expertise/study
As the UK’s Chief Plant Health Officer (CPHO), I advise ministers, industry and others about the risks posed by plant pests and diseases, ensuring that measures are in place to manage those risks and minimise their impact, as well as leading the operational response in the event of a disease outbreak. Although plant health is a devolved matter; the CPHO co-ordinates the UK response to European and International plant health matters and takes the lead on national plant health emergency response.
I am an experienced research plant pathologist and worked on virus diseases of horticultural crops in the UK and internationally for over 20 years. I am an expert in plant health and international plant trade and was President of the British Society for Plant Pathology (2020 & 2021).
About your early experiences in education
I was interested in plants from an early age and studied for a BSc in Botany from the University of Durham. This was followed by a MSc in Microbiology from Birkbeck College, University of London and a PhD in Plant Virology from the University of Birmingham. The subject of my PhD was Bean Common Mosaic Virus in Phaseolus beans in Africa.
If you could solve one problem in plant pathology, what would it be?
Understanding the resilience of tree species to plant pests and diseases.
If you could solve one issue relating to inclusivity and diversity within the field of plant pathology what would it be?
Equal access to education and study. The BSPP provides bursaries to help students access higher degrees.
If you weren’t a plant pathologist, what would you be?
A scuba diver