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Master Gardener Conference Speakers

Rakesh Chandran

Rakesh Chandran obtained a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Kerala Agricultural University in India. Subsequently, he received a diploma in the international horticulture program in 1990 from Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of Florida in 1993, and a doctorate in weed science from Virginia Tech in 1997. After working as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Florida, he joined the faculty at West Virginia University in 1999, where he is currently a WVU Extension Service weed specialist and professor, and the IPM coordinator. With primary extension responsibilities, he published over 100 articles including fact sheets, newsletters and research reports. He also has published 16 journal articles and three book chapters. He carries out a successful applied research and extension program to address grower problems related to weed management in agronomic, horticultural and other crops in West Virginia. He teaches one undergraduate course and serves on graduate committees. He is the past president of the Northeastern Weed Science Society.

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Mirjana (Mira) Bulatovic-Danilovich

Mira Bulatovic-Danilovich is a consumer horticulture specialist and associate professor with WVU Extension Service and WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. She received her bachelor’s degree in horticulture and master’s degree in pomology from the University of Belgrade in Serbia, her specialist degree in irrigation from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Agriculture in Mediterranean Region in Bari, Italy, and her doctorate in pomology from the University of Ljubljaana in Slovenia. She completed her postdoctoral studies at Michigan State University.

Prior to joining WVU in 2013, Bulatovic-Danilovich spent 20 years working for the Michigan State University Extension as district horticulture and marketing educator, providing regional and statewide leadership to commercial fruit producers in Michigan. She coordinated local Master Gardener programs in her district from 1992 until 2009, and as a county extension director, provided administrative leadership and collaboration with the local units of government. During her 2002 to 2009 tenure with Michigan State, she also was involved in conducting educational programs for developing countries as a USDA/FAS/DAI/USAID consultant. In 2016, she was on a USDA/USAID sponsored assignment to Central America delivering several educational sessions as part of the Farmer-2-Farmer Program.

Bulatovic-Danilovich serves as the state coordinator for the WVU Extension Service Master Gardener program.

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Mark Double

Mark Double worked with American chestnut and the chestnut blight fungus for 41 years at West Virginia University. He worked mainly with biological control of the chestnut blight fungus, where a fungal virus is inserted into the chestnut blight fungus to slow its growth and allow the tree to produce callus tissue to wall off the pathogen. Double, recently retired from WVU, is the president of the West Virginia chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation. Double has spoken on chestnut-related issues, locally, nationally and internationally.

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Lewis Jett

Lewis Jett is an associate professor and commercial horticulture specialist with WVU Extension Service with an emphasis in edible horticulture crops.

As a native West Virginian, his research and outreach program focuses on methods to lengthen the traditional growing season and expand locally grown production of fruits and vegetables. Jett uses high and low tunnel technology to expand local supply of produce.

Jett’s other areas of research include stand establishment, seed production, no-till production and organic horticulture.

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Chris Kubiak

Chris Kubiak, a native Pittsburgher and lifelong enthusiast of Pennsylvania’s rich biological heritage, has been an active outdoor enthusiast for the past 25 years in Western Pennsylvania. Kubiak combines a love and passion of birds and nature with his nonprofit and research experience at the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. He has participated in many citizen science programs, including Project Tanager and Project Budburst, and is the leader of the South Butler Christmas Bird Count. He also has an academic interest in climate change and its effects on humans and ecosystems. Before joining Audubon, Kubiak worked as an independent historical researcher and as an adjunct history professor at both CCAC and Robert Morris University. Chris earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Pittsburgh, and a master’s degree in history from Slippery Rock University. Chris and his wife, Sarah, currently reside in Butler, Pennsylvania, with their two kids, Maddie and Ewan.

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Laura Nixon

Laura Nixon is a post-doctoral researcher at the USDA-ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Station. She has studied behavioral- and chemical-based bio-surveillance of invasive insects in both New Zealand and the United States. Currently, her main focus is researching the newly invasive spotted lanternfly to assess potential risk and management for the region.

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Doug Oster

Doug Oster is manager and editor of Everybody Gardens with a passion for gardening and a love of sharing his experiences with other gardeners. You will find Doug's gardening contributions in the Tribune-Review each week. He is an Emmy Award-winning producer, television host and writer. Oster is co-host of the Organic Gardeners radio show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. His Outstanding Documentary Emmy was awarded for Gardens of Pennsylvania, a one-hour special he conceived and produced for the PBS affiliate WQED. Doug appears every Friday morning on KDKA-TV's Pittsburgh Today live at 9 a.m.

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Sheldon Owen

Sheldon Owen earned a bachelor’s degree in forestry and wildlife management from Mississippi State University in 1998. He then conducted graduate work at the University of Georgia, where he earned a master’s degree in 2000, and at West Virginia University, where he earned a doctorate in forest resource science in 2003. The primary focus of his graduate research involved the ecology of forest dwelling bats and raccoons in association with intensive forest management. He served as a wildlife disease biologist for the National Wildlife Disease Program within USDA/APHIS Wildlife Services in South Carolina for five years. Then, he served as a supervisory wildlife biologist for the South Carolina Program of Wildlife Services until 2010. He is currently the wildlife specialist for WVU Extension Service.

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Mahfuz Rahman

Mahfuz Rahman is an associate professor and plant pathology specialist with WVU Extension Service. He received his master’s degree in plant pathology from Oregon State University, his doctorate in plant pathology from Simon Fraser University in Canada and conducted post-doctoral research at North Carolina State University. He conducts applied research for plant disease management and provides leadership for statewide educational and informational programs in plant pathology in West Virginia. He serves as the director of the WVU Plant Diagnostic Clinic and state liaison for National Plant Diagnostic Network.

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