Arbor Day Celebrated with New PPEM Station

Posted: April 28, 2016

This year's Arbor Day Celebration at the Penn State Arboretum included a new PPEM station which focused on the role of microbes.
Image: Jim McQuaide, VJM Photography

Image: Jim McQuaide, VJM Photography


Dept. of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology (PPEM) members participated for the first time in the annual Arbor Day celebration at the Penn State Arboretum held this year on April 28. The event educates State College Area School District fourth-grade students about ecosystem-related topics, including the importance of pollinators, reptiles, birds, weather, water systems…and plants! The Arbor Day program organizers at the arboretum were enthusiastic about PPEM’s new station because a focus on the role of microbes was unique among the twenty-one groups represented at the event.

The PPEM interactive display taught students about plant nutrition, microbes, and the positive and negative roles of microbes in forest and agriculture ecosystems.  The station was called Plants Get Sick, Too? and included an array of materials: bacteria and fungi in culture, edible fungi, nutrient-deficient plants, and plants infected with various pathogens.

Presentations were made by Drs. Tim McNellis, Laura Ramos-Sepulveda, and Irda Safni, as well as Senior Research Asst. Judy Sinn and Ph.D. candidate Maliheh Safari. Afterwards, students were free to use magnifiers to get an up-close look at the organisms and plants.

Despite cold, rainy weather and cancellations by some participating schools, about eighty students and their chaperones visited the station to learn about plant pathology and environmental microbiology. The station was coordinated by Judy Sinn with the help of many dept. members, including Ph.D. candidate Kaixi Zhao, undergraduates Kevin Cassidy, Seva Soltanov, and Lianna Wodzicki, Research Technologist Kimberly Paley, Dr. John Pecchia, and especially Dr. Don Davis, who provided incredible forest fungi that were a big hit with the students. Participating again is the plan for next year, hopefully with the entire district's fourth graders in attendance!

Contact Information

Judith P. Sinn
  • Senior Research Assistant
Phone: 814-863-7399