Master Gardener Conference Speakers
Dr. Srdjan Acimovic is a plant pathologist at Virginia Tech in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences. He is located at Virginia Tech’s Alson H. Smith Jr. Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Winchester, Virginia. He earned his doctorate in Plant Pathology from Michigan State University and his master's in Phytopathology at the University of Novi Sad in Serbia, where he was a Teaching and Research Assistant of Phytopathology Curriculum and a faculty member in the Department of Plant and Environmental Protection. Currently, he conducts research on management of tree diseases, plant pathogen identification, characterization, biology and epidemiology, as well as field evaluation of pesticides and plant resistance activators for their control. The key plant diseases he is working on are fire blight of apple and pear, apple bitter rot, Marssonina leaf and fruit blotch, and apple scab. Dr. Acimovic has published over 50 research and 20 extension articles, given 24 invited and 90 extension presentations, and since 2015, has served as an Associate Editor of Archives of Phytopathology and Plant Protection.To Top
Mirjana (Mira) Bulatovic-Danilovich
Mira Bulatovic-Danilovich is a consumer horticulture specialist and associate professor
with WVU Extension 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 Master Gardener program.
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 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.To Top
(Warning: Karen Cox may or may not be obsessed with trees.) Karen Cox is the WVU Extension agriculture and natural resources agents in Ohio County, and Chair of the Wheeling Tree Board. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Forest Resources Management from WVU, a master’s degree in Forestry from Purdue University, and is working toward becoming an ISA Certified Arborist. Since 2020, she has orchestrated the planting of over 500 trees in city of Wheeling. Her goal is to improve the health and longevity of trees everywhere and to help people appreciate their many values.To Top
Eric Freeland is a farmer and owner of Freeland Farm in Wellsburg, West Virginia. He has been growing berries and vegetables for 40-plus years, both wholesale and retail. He sells at farmers markets and participates in community-supported agriculture. He’s avid about soil building and Back to Eden gardening systems.To Top
Michael Gutensohn is currently an assistant professor of horticulture in the Division of Plant and Soil Sciences at WVU. He received his diploma in biology at the Julius-Maximilians-University in Wurzburg and his doctorate in biology at the Botanical Institute, University of Cologne, Germany. He was a post-doctoral research assistant at the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Purdue University. He has written numerous scientific articles in the field of plant biology at the genetic and molecular level.To Top
Lewis Jett is an associate professor and commercial horticulture specialist with
WVU Extension 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.
Shanda King is the state apiarist with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture and is responsible for managing the WVDA Apiary Program throughout the state. She works with beekeepers across West Virginia and is very involved in education through working with local beekeeping clubs, schools, and other organizations to increase awareness of the wonderful world of keeping honeybees. Shanda is a graduate of West Virginia University’s biology department and also holds a master's degree in biology from Missouri State University. She currently resides in Ritchie County, West Virginia.To Top
Barbara Liedl received her B.S. in Horticulture from Purdue University and her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in Plant Breeding and Horticulture, respectively. Her post-doctoral work at Cornell was with a team developing insect and disease resistant field tomatoes. Currently, she is an Associate Professor at WVSU. Her current research projects involve improving heirloom tomato varieties for greenhouse and high tunnel production and trialing OMRI-approved pesticides on beneficial insects. In addition to research, her outreach projects include produce safety, grant writing and management as well as IPM in greenhouses and high tunnels.To Top
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.To Top
Yong-Lak Park is an entomology professor at West Virginia University. His areas of expertise are integrated pest management, invasive species, mason bees, and applications of satellites, drones, and artificial intelligence for entomological research and pest management.To Top
Carlos Quesada completed his master’s and doctorate at Purdue University. Then, he worked as pesticide education specialist at Pennsylvania State University. In 2020, he joined West Virginia University Extension as the entomology specialist. Quesada’s research interest is improving IPM programs to help growers produce high quality crops in ways that are economically and environmentally sustainable.To Top
Mahfuz Rahman is an associate professor and plant pathology specialist with WVU Extension. 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.To Top
Elizabeth Rowen is from Santa Cruz, California. She received her bachelor's degree in biology from Wellesley College. After spending two summers collecting wildflower seeds for the Bureau of Land Management in the Eastern Sierras, she received her master’s degree in entomology at Purdue University on the effects of plant volatiles on tomato defenses against tobacco hornworm. She then moved to Penn State where she completed a doctorate in entomology in 2020. Her lab investigates the effects of soil management practices like cover crops, manure, and tillage on insect pest management.To Top
Claire Schuchman is a landscape designer, owner of Exceptional Gardens, and a Master Gardener for Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. With over 20 years of experience, Claire's knowledge as a Master Gardener, brilliant execution of design, and dedication to the vision of her clients has been her passion. With a reputation for reliability and integrity in everything she does, Claire leads her team to provide custom landscape design and installation services. Located in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the staff of Exceptional Gardens works diligently to design and build sustainable oases in the robust communities around the Steel City. When she is not working in the field with her crew or meeting with clients, she strives to share her experience through educating others whether it be through teaching gardening and design workshops for Mt. Lebanon Library or writing articles for the Mt. Lebanon Magazine. Claire believes that a beautiful garden, large or small, can change our lives by giving us access to the beauty and healing power of nature.To Top
Roxanne Swan is an environmental botanist and horticulturist with the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. She is the coordinator for the Audubon Center for Native Plants, where she propagates, cares for, and promotes native plants in the center’s nursery. She has worked as a professional in the Green industry for over 25 years and provides education programs about native plants and rain gardens. She received her degree in Environmental Botany and a certificate in Horticulture from Chatham University in 2007. She’s been a Greenhouse Practices instructor for Community College of Allegheny County covering aspects of greenhouse systems. She’s also been program coordinator with Turtle Creek Watershed Association, developing and conducting rain garden workshops, presenting native plant and water quality programs and working with the community on natural resource conservation. She also owned and operated ‘Roxanne’s Organic Gardening’ for 12 years coordinating and performing sustainable garden maintenance, native plant landscape design and organic plant care, as well as horticulture lectures, soil testing and consulting.To Top
Chuck Talbott served as the WVU Extension agriculture and natural resources agent for Putnam County from 2009 to 2018 and finished as the Putnam County Master Gardener advisor and garden-based learning coordinator for our state from 2018 to 2020. He is convinced the best way to “grow” our students is by exposing them to the wonders of pulling up a turnip or carrot that they planted in their gardens. Talbott believes that the WVU Extension GBL program should be in all West Virginia elementary schools.To Top
Carol Warner is the owner of Draycott Gardens in Upperco, Maryland, a small web based mail-order business specializing in beardless irises. She is a Maryland native and graduate of the University of Maryland. Her 42-year relationship with irises began in 1976, when she joined the Francis Scott Key Iris Society. She is an American Iris Society Emeritus Judge and past president of both the Society for Siberian Irises and the Society for Japanese Irises. Her gardens have been featured in Good Housekeeping, Chesapeake Home, The Baltimore Sun Magazine, Arrive Magazine, Style Magazine and on HGTV’s A Gardener’s Diary.To Top
Nicole Waterland is an Associate Professor of Horticulture, Director of Controlled Environments and the Ray Marsh and Arthur Pingree Dye Endowed Professor in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design at West Virginia University. Her research focuses on the effects of climate change and environmental stress on plant growth and development using petunia and blueberry as model systems. She is also interested in the development of crop production methods to enhance health-promoting phytochemicals in horticultural crops, and the production of specialty crops in greenhouse, aquaponic and hydroponic systems.To Top
Danae Wolfe is a writer, photographer, and conservation educator focused on backyard bugs. She owns and operates the homegrown conservation initiative, Chasing Bugs, where she educates homeowners about the importance of rethinking the American home landscape. She has over 10 years’ experience designing and facilitating learning opportunities that span natural resources, horticulture, digital engagement, and her personal passion of photography.To Top