Jean Ristaino
Academic Editor

Jean Beagle Ristaino


Dr. Jean Beagle Ristaino is a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology at NC State University. She earned her B.Sc. degree in Biological Sciences and an M.S. degree in Plant Pathology from the University of Maryland, and a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the University of California-Davis. Much of her research work has been on the genus Phytophthora, an oomycete plant pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine. She conducts research internationally on late blight, a threat to food security. She has used genetic markers to study migration and characterize historic and present day populations of P. infestans. Her research has been published in Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Science. She teaches a class in Tropical Plant Pathology, is the director of the Emerging Plant Disease and Global Food Security Cluster and leads USAID funded workshops in pathogen diagnostics globally. She has served in numerous leadership roles at the university including the faculty senate and the administrative board of the graduate school and nationally with the USDA, NSF and USAID. She served as a Jefferson Science Fellow in the Bureau for Food Security at USAID and the State Department. She has communicated findings of her research with the media including CNN, Discovery Channel, radio and numerous newspaper articles. Dr. Ristaino’s research impacts our understanding of emerging plant pathogens, and global food security.

Agricultural Science Ecology Epidemiology Evolutionary Studies Mycology Plant Science

Institution affiliations

Work details

William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor

North Carolina State University
October 1987
Plant Pathology
A major focus of research in my lab is to understand the epidemiology and population genetics of Oomycete plant pathogens in the genus Phytophthora. Phytophthora infestans caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s, and are a reemerging threat to global food security. We study the population genetics and migrations of both historic and present day strains of the pathogen. My lab was part of a multi-investigator group that sequenced the genome of the pathogen. We are now using the genome sequence to develop novel strategies for managing disease in the field. Our team has developed a web portal called that can be used to track recent outbreaks of disease. We also work on other pathogens of tropical crop plants including black Sigatoka on banana and coffee rust that are threats to global food security.


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