Saving the trees
Professor Brenda Wingfield is the deputy dean of the faculty of natural and agricultural sciences at the University of Pretoria (UP).
She is one of the founding members of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute at UP.
She was one of the leaders in developing DNA-based phylogenetics of tree pathogens. More recently, Wingfield and her research group sequenced the first eukaryote genome (the pine pitch canker pathogen) in Africa, this has been followed by many other fungal genomes. Her research group is without question one of the most active programmes in terms of fungal genome analysis.
Her research programme has always embraced the most recent advances in technology. In the 1990s, she and her collaborators produced the largest volume of sequence data available on tree pathogens in the world.
In doing so, she was one of the leaders in developing DNA-based phylogenetics of tree pathogens.
She is part of the Tree Protection Co-operative Programme (TPCP). This is supported by all the forestry industries in South Africa. The TPCP has provided the South African forestry industry with solutions to pests and pathogens for almost 25 years.
She has played an important role in the development of DNA-based identification technologies for the important fungal pathogens. Accurate identification of the causal agents of tree disease is an important first step in disease management.
All the forestry industries in South Africa have benefited from the research that has been done by her research programme. The best example of this is the fact that the disease diagnostic clinic, which is part of the TPCP uses DNA-based identification techniques, which have been developed from the research that has been done by her team.
She is also active in the education sector and has trained 43 honours students. Additionally, she has been advisor or co-advisor to 41 master’s students and 44 PhD students. She is currently advisor or co-advisor to five master’s students and eight PhD students.
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