Meet the Researcher: Nick Rajtar
Master's Student | he/him/his
Nick Rajtar is part of an MITPPC-funded team led by Robert Blanchette and Kathryn Bushley. Check out this profile's companion piece, "Fungal Friends and Foes," and Q+A with project member Benjamin Held.
Can you give a quick overview of your work with MITPPC?
I am involved in identifying canker-causing fungi associated with the emerald ash borer (EAB). In general, I take wood samples from the field, and culture any fungi I find on the wood back in the laboratory. Then I isolate the fungal cultures into pure samples for DNA sequencing and identification.
What drew you to invasive species research?
During my undergraduate studies I interned for S&S, the Davey Tree Expert Company. I treated trees all summer for emerald ash borer, Dutch elm disease and oak wilt. It was primarily field work, and I became very interested in pests and diseases that affect trees. It’s fascinating to now study the emerald ash borer and the fungi associated with it in a laboratory setting. Previously, I only saw the end result where people were taking down trees. It is very rewarding for me to be involved in the scientific investigations.
What is one thing you hope people can take away from your research project by the end of it?
I hope this important work on canker-causing fungi will provide new information on a serious problem affecting Minnesota and other states, and help lead to better methods that can be used to control EAB.
When you are not out in the field or in the lab, what do you like to do for fun?
I’m basically an “outdoors type,” so I like going to the Boundary Waters and doing other outdoor activities. Now that I’ve been in Bob Blanchette’s research lab and have taken his "Diseases of Forest and Shade Trees" class, I have been so much more aware of tree diseases and fungi whenever I’m outdoors and exploring. I like to foray for edible fungi and admire the ones that aren’t edible too. My favorite would have to be the genus Ganoderma. I also enjoy fishing and enjoy music – I have a large vinyl record collection.
About the Author
Caro Silvola is a Communications Intern with the Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center (MITPPC). She is a double major in Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering and English Literature and is highlighting research-community partnerships in the summer of 2019. Outside of the office, Caroline likes biking, making art, exploring, volunteering in her community and participating in environmental movement spaces.