Eric O'Neal

Eric has recently received his Masters degree from the department under the advisement of Don Davis. Eric worked on utilization of a fungus as a biocontrol for invasive Tree-of-Heaven.

Eric O’Neal is receiving his Masters in Plant Pathology this summer, and is a soon to be graduate of the program. Eric is a native Pennsylvanian, growing up in Hummelstown, PA and attending Lower Dauphin High School, where he was a member of the track team all four years. Following his graduation, Eric attended Penn State, majoring in Forest Science. While an undergraduate, Eric was a member of the Penn State Student Chapter of the Society of American Foresters, as well as the Alliance Christian Fellowship group (which he continued to be a member through his graduate program). Eric’s path to our program began when he took Dr. Don Davis’s Forest Pathology course. Starting in May of 2010 he began assisting now Dr. Matt Kasson in his field research in biocontrol of Ailanthus altissima, colloquially known as Tree-of-Heaven, using Verticillium nonalfalfae. This biocontol organism is unique due to the fact that it was found naturally infecting a stand of Tree-of-Heaven in Pennsylvania. After graduating with his B.S. in Forest Science, Eric entered the graduate program at Penn State under the guidance of Dr. Don Davis. Eric’s research specifically dealt with elucidating the role intraspecific root grafts play in the dissemination of the pathogen between neighboring trees, and was able to demonstrate that they do play a role in dissemination. In addition to his work on root grafts, Eric also worked to make a user friendly formulation of the fungus to allow for easy storage and subsequent inoculation, as well ease of use for those applying the treatment. On the side, Eric has assisted in research involving the Thousand Cankers Disease outbreak that occurred in Bucks County, PA, and was one of the lead investigators of a new species of Artillery Fungus (Sphaerobolus spp.) that was sent to the Davis Lab. Eric’s future plans are to use his degrees in both Forest Science and Plant Pathology to pursue a career as a research forester or forest pathologist. When not in the lab, Eric is an avid outdoorsman, enjoying hunting, fishing, and hiking, as well as painting. When asked to give one piece of advice to upcoming students he said: “In the midst of your time-consuming research and studies, don’t forget to take time to relax and have fun!”