PPDL Lab & Botany
Amy Deitrich solves problems for Indiana farmers' problem-solvers. Deitrich, communications coordinator for the Plant and Pest Diagnostic Lab and the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, works to organize departmental projects and to spread the word about her department's research, which can lead to more successful plants for farmers and homeowners.
What role do you play within the department?
I look at my position as providing the means to disseminate the department and lab's information to the community and state. I also help them to stay organized internally. I create training materials, websites, and pamphlets to help get the message out to the public and our constituents.
What does the Plant and Pest Diagnostic Lab do?
The diagnostic lab receives samples from people and groups from all over the country, such as Extension educators, farmers, greenhouses, homeowners and pest control companies that may suspect a problem with their plants or have found an unknown pest. The lab provides identification of insects, plants and plant diseases and diagnosis of plant and pest problems.
Additionally, we operate as the state lab for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, so we are involved in plant disease and pest surveys across Indiana. If there are any potential threats coming in from other states or that have popped up, we help train the inspectors who will go out and collect samples to see where it's coming from, and then help track the progress.
My role in the lab is to act as a coordinator. I create the promotional materials, manage the website and get things ready for trainings and trade shows. What I do allows the researchers more time to work on the "meat" of their research, while worrying less about the technical and publication details.
How are you involved in the Extension services within the department?
The research that our Extension services perform is all practical and applied research. For example, they perform fungicide and herbicide trials, which are directly valuable to industry representatives, growers, and corn and soybean farmers.
In the publications that I help to create, we try to convey this applicability of the research to our audience. Indiana's farmers depend on these crops for their income and livelihood, so anything that we find to help boost yields can help them become more successful.
Furthermore, a lot of people aren't aware of the diverse group of excellent and award-winning scientists we have within the department. I try to utilize new technology and social media to get the word out about what we're doing and what we've recently found.
What is the department working on for Spring Fest?
I am the department organizer for our portion of Spring Fest. Every year, I try to make an effort to get new and different displays and activities for the young students to interact with. For example, in the past we've had a very popular display on carnivorous plants, which allows the children to get up close and examine these amazing plants in person and under a microscope. It's great to see their faces light up and show such interest in plant science.
This year we are looking to add more hands-on activities to allow our visitors to get their hands dirty, while still learning about plants. We also host a department competition for plant photography, and our visitors can vote for their favorite pieces. Our past winners and finalists are decorating the walls in Lilly Hall.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love helping people, whether it's someone on staff with a problem, or the general callers that we hear from on the Extension line. I like to find answers and help create solutions for the people I work with and the state of Indiana.
For example, in the summer of 2011, the lab was faced with a number of reports of abnormal browning of pine trees. I was part of a large team of specialists from multiple departments that found the problem was being caused by a new herbicide that was being used on golf courses.
In addition to creating many publications and press releases to spread awareness of the problem, we organized and presented our findings to the herbicide's producers, and that product is no longer on the market. I think it is so exciting to look at the big picture and know that I played a part in resolving the issue.