Dr. Romina Gazis

Assistant Professor - Plant Pathology-
Director, Plant Diagnostic Clinic     

Dr. Gazis is a plant pathologist with extensive experience in fungal biology and an increasing interest in tropical plant diseases caused by other groups of plant pathogens. During her Ph.D. (University of Maryland) and two postdoctoral fellowships (Clark University and University of Tennessee), her research areas were quite diverse. Her dissertation focus was on fungal endophytes inhabiting wild and planted rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis), with the aim of finding potential biological control agents that could be used against diseases detrimental to natural rubber production. In this project, she collected, identified and characterized hundreds of fungal cultures isolated as endophytes of trees grown in plantations and natural forests of Africa, South and North America. This research effort resulted in the description of several novel fungal lineages, including Trichoderma spp. with potential biocontrol properties and the unveiling of a novel branch in the fungal tree of life (Class Xylonomycetes). At Clark University, Dr. Gazis was part of the Open Tree of Life project where she conducted research on fungal systematics and evolutionary biology; additionally, as well as on fungal comparative genomics and genes that play a role in determining the lifestyle of a fungus. At the University of Tennessee, Dr. Gazis used population genetics and genomic approaches to investigate the evolutionary dynamics and disease ecology of the pathogen/vector system involved in Thousand Cankers Disease.

Dr. Gazis long-term research goal is to understand the biology behind different plant diseases (Fungi, Bacteria, Oomycetes, Viruses) affecting local industries and natural landscapes and use this knowledge to develop efficient and long-term disease management strategies. At TREC, Dr. Gazis has a 60% extension and 40% research appointment. Most of the extension work is related to TREC’s Plant Diagnostic Clinic. Serving a diverse array of businesses within the green industry, but with a focus mainly on commercial growers that cultivate ornamental, tropical fruits, and landscape crops. South Florida offers an ideal climate to grow plants year-around but it also represents a hot spot for plant diseases and an entry point for detrimental invasive species.

Areas of Interest and Research

  • Role of microbial diversity in ecosystem health.
  • Fungal endophytes.
  • Forest pathology with emphasis in insect-vectored diseases.
  • Plant pathology and population genetics of plant pathogens.
  • Biological control of fungal diseases.
  • Entomopathogenic fungi: diversity, ecology and applications. 

Current projects:

  • Evaluating the tolerance of different genetic lines of “Tahiti” lime towards citrus greening in South Florida.
  • Detection and incidence of Cactus x Virus (CXV) in local Pitaya plantings.
  • Sugarcane Mosaic Virus (SCMV) incidence in San Augustinegrass in Miami-Dade County.
  • Genomics and population genetics of Geosmithia morbida, the causal agent of Thousand Cankers Disease. [In collaboration with University of Tennessee]
  • Genetic Diversity and Coevolutionary history of Geosmithia morbida and Pityophthorus juglandis. [In collaboration with University of Tennessee]