Erica Goss

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 is on the origins, evolution, population genetic structure and migration of plant pathogens. Dr. Goss is also interested in the molecular evolution of virulence and host range as it relates to the emergence of new pathogens. Her focus is on Phytophthora pathogens, which include a number of emerging pathogens.

Phytophthora (‘plant-destroyer’) is a genus of the Oomycetes, which share life history characteristics with fungi but are members of a distinct lineage of eukaryotes with diatoms and brown algae. Phytophthora are responsible for some of the most economically and ecologically destructive plant diseases, including agricultural crops and forest trees. Since the discovery of P. ramorum as the causal agent of sudden oak death in northern California in the late 1990s, the number of Phytophthora species has more than doubled as a result of monitoring efforts. But little is known about the origin, distribution or host range of these new Phytophthora species, and it is not known how many other potentially damaging Phytophthora remain undiscovered.

Prior to arriving at UF, Dr. 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. Dr. 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, Dr. 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. Dr. 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 Dr. Goss plans to extend this work to examine the local and global migration of other Phytophthora pathogens.