Speaker Biographies

Headshot of Jared Barnes Jared Barnes, Assistant Professor, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas

Dr. Jared Barnes started gardening when he was five years old, and since then he has enthusiastically pursued how to best cultivate plants and cultivate minds. He currently fulfills those passions as an assistant professor of horticulture at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. He obtained his Ph.D. in horticultural science from North Carolina State University; he interned the summer of 2008 at the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College in Pennslyvania; and he has traveled around the United States and into eleven countries to gain a national and global perspective of horticulture. His passion has been recognized by peers with being named the 2016 Perennial Plant Association Young Professional of the Year, recognized in the 2016 Greenhouse Product News Class of 40 under 40 and in interviews in Organic GardeningGreenhouse Grower, AmericanHort Connect, Ken Druse’s Real Dirt, and Nursery Management, and his articles have appeared in Fine Gardening and Carolina Gardener

Lisa Bottomley HeadshotLisa Bottomley, Senior Specialist and Manager for Extension Volunteer Administration, MSU Extension

Lisa Bottomley is a Senior Specialist in MSU Extension and serves as the Manager for Extension Volunteer Administration. She began working at MSU Extension in July 2000. Lisa completed her undergraduate studies at Central Michigan University where she received a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and earned a Master of Arts in Youth Development from MSU. Lisa provides leadership to volunteer management processes throughout the organization. She works closely with other leaders to ensure we are attracting, retaining and training high quality volunteers who are thoroughly vetted by the organization. This includes managing the Volunteer Excellence Support Team (VEST) staff members and leading the Volunteer Selection Process.

Isabel Branstorm HeadshotIsabel Branstorm, Consumer Horticulture Educator, MSU Extension

Isabel Branstrom is the Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Consumer Horticulture Educator based in Ingham county, where she educates gardeners about plants and the environment. She was born in south Florida and received her undergraduate degree in horticultural sciences from the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL. Isabel then ventured north to study horticulture and received her master’s degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. When she isn’t thinking, reading or speaking about plants, she is probably sewing.

Peter CarringtonPeter Carrington, Curator, W.J. Beal Botanical Garden, MSU

Dr. Peter Carrington was born in Toronto, Ontario, but grew up in St. Joseph, Michigan.  A life-long learner, Peter began his undergraduate career at MSU in 1967, and graduated with a degree in Zoology in 1992. During this time, he had also become an established biological and medical illustrator and worked in that field for decades.  More recently, he earned his Ph.D. in Plant Biology, researching an ancient extinct Native American crop cultivar, and was an instructor of edible and toxic plants and wilderness survival techniques at Lansing Community College for 36 years. In 2008, he became assistant curator at the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden, ultimately becoming curator in 2018, specializing in edible and toxic plants for people and animals.  He is a consultant to the regional poison control center and to several zoos concerning plantings and food plants and teaches about toxic plants at the MSU Veterinary School.

Head Shot of Linda Chalker-Scott

Linda Chalker-Scott, Professor and Extension Urban Horticulturist, Washington State University (WSU) Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Puyallup, Washington

Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott has a Ph.D. in Horticulture from Oregon State University and is an ISA certified arborist and an ASCA consulting arborist. She is WSU’s Extension Urban Horticulturist and an Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture, and holds two affiliate associate professor positions at University of Washington. She conducts research in applied plant and soil sciences, publishing the results in scientific articles and university Extension fact sheets. In 2020, she was named the new editor for the Western Arborist magazine. Linda also is the award-winning author of five books: the horticultural myth-busting The Informed Gardener (2008) and The Informed Gardener Blooms Again (2010) from the University of Washington Press and Sustainable Landscapes and Gardens: Good Science – Practical Application (2009) from GFG Publishing, Inc., and How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do from Timber Press (2015). Her latest book is an update of Art Kruckeberg’s Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest from UW Press (2019), which has won several national awards since its publication. In 2018 Linda was featured in a video series – The Science of Gardening – produced by The Great Courses. She also is one of the Garden Professors – a group of academic colleagues who educate and entertain through their blog and Facebook pages. Linda’s educational contributions to science-based information have been recognized by such groups as Garden Communicators International, the National Association of County Agricultural Agents, and the International Association for Arboriculture.

Frank Cox HeadshotFrank Cox, Educator, MSU Extension

Frank Cox is an Extension Educator for MSU Extension and is based in Muskegon County.  His focus areas are volunteer recruitment, volunteer recognition, career exploration and workforce preparation.  He also oversees a statewide mentoring program called 4-H Tech Wizards and has experience with college outreach programs to serve a variety of target audiences.  He has a Bachelor of Science degree from Prairie View A&M University and a Master of Science from Penn State University.




Roy Diblik Headshot

Roy Diblik, Co-Owner, Northwind Perennial Farm, Burlington, Wisc.

Roy Diblik is co-owner of Northwind Perennial Farm located in Burlington, Wisconsin.  He has been growing traditional and native perennials since 1978. His garden designs emphasize plant relationships to stewardship strategies and costs. Roy’s design and planting projects include the Louis Sullivan Arch Garden for the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago and the lakeside plantings for the new Oceanarium at the Shedd Aquarium. His book ‘The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden’ highlights his perennial gardening practice.

Finneran photo Rebecca Finneran, Senior Consumer Horticulture  Educator, MSU Extension

Rebecca Finneran received a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture and Landscape Design from MSU in 1983. Her current role as MSU Extension Senior Horticulture Educator finds her teaching students about gardening, horticulture, pesticide safety and the environment in nearly every corner of Michigan.  She currently oversees MSU Extension’s Smart Gardening initiative working on messaging, and helping Michigan's residents become earth-friendly and “smart”.  She has been actively writing curriculum and leading Horticulture study excursions for more than 30 years. Finneran oversees the West Michigan Extension Master Gardener volunteer program, often appears on TV and is a garden columnist. Her design background and long history working in the green industry, paved the way for the development of an urban “idea garden” located at the Kent MSU Extension office.

Ron Goldy HeadshotRon Goldy, Retired Vegetable Production Educator, MSU Extension

Recently retired from MSU Extension, Dr. Ron Goldy conducted research and extension on new varieties, crops, and technologies, and irrigation and nutrients to help growers be sustainable. He also worked with the direct market industry and helped consumers understand modern agricultural practices.


Erin Hill HeadshotErin Hill, Weed Science Diagnostician, MSU

Dr. Erin Hill serves as the weed science diagnostician for MSU Plant and Pest Diagnostics. She is responsible for plant identification, assessing abiotic plant injury, and herbicide resistance screening for the diverse plant industries and clients in the state. Erin also serves as the instructor for two weed science courses. She is a native Michigander and holds degrees in plant science from both MSU and U of M, therefore she will respond accordingly to both ‘Go Green!’ and ‘Go Blue!’  



Christopher Imler headshot

Christopher Imler, Horticulture and Veterans Outreach Educator, MSU Extension

Christopher Imler is the Consumer Horticulture Educator and Veterans Outreach Educator for Southwest Michigan. He has a M.S. in Horticulture from Iowa State University and his previous research specializes in plant-environment interactions of vegetables and fruits.

Ryan Keeling headshot

Ryan Keeling, Technical Operations - GIS Manager and Assistant Chief Pilot, DroneSeed, Seattle, Wash.

Ryan Keeling is the Technical Operations - GIS Manager and Assistant Chief Pilot at the Seattle, WA based DroneSeed. Ryan, a southeast Michigan native, graduated from the University of Michigan - Dearborn with a degree in Environmental Science and GIS. Ryan is also an avid adventurer and spends his free time running, hiking, and climbing in the mountains and forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Bryce Lane headshot

Bryce Lane, Lecturer Emeritus and Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor, North Carolina State University

Bryce Lane discovered his passion for plants, and telling others about them while working at a small Massachusetts garden center through high school and college. After earning his BS and MS in Horticulture, he joined the Department of Horticultural Science at NC State University as an Instructor and Undergraduate Coordinator. He spent 34 years teaching and advising over 20,000 students. Bryce retired in 2014, but still teaches part-time in the department. For 11 seasons he hosted and produced a three-time, Emmy winning, UNC TV public television show called “In the Garden With Bryce Lane”. He now spends his time giving horticulture talks, doing leadership, and communication training, teaching part-time at NC State, and at the JC Raulston Arboretum. An avid gardener, Bryce has gardened on the same one quarter acre plot for 37 years. 

David Lowenstein Headshot David Lowenstein, Consumer Horticulture Educator, MSU Extension

David Lowenstein in the MSU Extension Consumer Horticulture Educator based out of Clinton Township, Michigan. Before coming to MSU, he worked with managing invasive species, integrated pest management (IPM) of vegetable crops, and pests and pollinators in urban agriculture. He has a background in IPM and entomology with a BA in Biology from CUNY-Lehman, MS in Entomology from University of Wisconsin and PhD in Ecology/Evolution from University of Illinois-Chicago.

Erin Lizotte HeadshotErin Lizotte, Senior Statewide Extension IPM Educator / IPM Coordinator, MSU Extension

Erin Lizotte is a Senior Statewide IPM Extension Educator and the IPM Coordinator for MSU. Erin received her bachelor’s degree in forestry from Michigan Technological University and her master’s in plant pathology from MSU. She has been working with Michigan crop growers to implement IPM since 2008. Crop expertise includes tree fruit, grapes, hops, and chestnuts with emphasis on vertebrate pests.

Mike Maddox headshotMike Maddox, Outreach Program Manager,University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension Master Gardener Program

Mike Maddox is the Outreach Program Manager for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension Master Gardener Program. Mike is a registered Horticultural Therapist, and has degrees in Botany (BS) and Horticulture (MS).

Laura Miles HeadshotLaura Miles, Molecular Diagnostician, MSU

Laura Miles is a Molecular Diagnostician at MSU. She received her BS and MS in Microbiology from Universidad de los Andes (Bogota, Colombia) and her MS in Plant Pathology from MSU studying the biology and fungicide sensitivity of grape powdery mildew. She joined a commercial testing laboratory in California that primarily focused on the detection of specific diseases of grapevine. Afterwards, she held a position as an instructor at an agricultural technology college teaching courses on plant and soil science, plant pathology, and small fruits. In 2018, Laura joined MSU Plant & Pest Diagnostics to bring new molecular techniques that facilitate the detection and identification of plant pathogens and pests. Her work supports an experienced team of diagnosticians to identify the underlying factors of plant health issues. She also works on educational programs on plant biosecurity, the role of plant disease and pest diagnostics, and the role and mission of Plant & Pest Diagnostics at MSU.

Ron Perry HeadshotRon Perry, Professor Emeritus, MSU

Dr. Ron Perry grew up in a fruit orchard operation in the Santa Clara Valley of California and received his BS in Fruit Science at California Polytechnic State University and his Ph.D. in Horticulture at Texan A&M University, researching viticulture.  His work at MSU began in 1980, as a tree fruit Extension specialist providing research leadership in a wide range of orchard development and management practices.  Ron is a leading tree fruit pomologist and is widely recognized for his pioneering activities in support of the Michigan apple and cherry industries, spearheading the development of high-density orchard systems. Ron has received numerous awards including MSU-CANR Distinguished Faculty Award, MSU Extension Distinguished Service Award, International Dwarf Fruit Tree Association Distinguished Research Award, and Cherry Industry Person of the Year In addition to his research and extension activities, Ron also served as Chairperson of the Department of Horticulture for seven years, before retiring in September in 2019.  His most recent project is the book Espalier Fruit Plantings for Northern Gardens which he co-authored with Dr. Kristin Getter.

Jean Persely Headshot

Jean Persely, Advanced Master Gardener

Jean Persely, with BMO Logistics, is an Advanced Master Gardener, Master Composter and Master Rain Gardener. Jean is a certified Landscape Designer who enjoys sharing her experiences and lessons-learned during educational outreach Garden Lifecycle Management programs.

Sarah Rautio HeadshotSarah Rautio, State Leader, MSU Extension Master Gardener Program®

Sarah Rautio is the Statewide Leader for the MSU Extension Master Gardener® program. In her former position as an MSU Extension Horticulture Educator, she specialized in wildlife impacts on gardens, most notably with deer.  She has a PhD in Fisheries and Wildlife from MSU.

Howard Russell HeashotHoward Russell, Arthropod Diagnostician, MSU

Howard Russell is the Arthropod Diagnostician at MSU. His areas of expertise include arthropod identification, household, structural, yard and garden pests, pests of trees and shrubs, and invasive arthropods. He also teachs a blue-collar entomology class to agriculture and landscape students at MSU.

monique sakalidis headshotMonique Sakalidis, Assistant Professor, MSU

Dr. Monique Sakalidis received her Ph.D. in her hometown of Perth, Western Australia at Murdoch University where she worked on pathogens that affected eucalyptus, baobab and mango trees. During this period she also spent time conducting research at the Forestry and Biotechnology Institute at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. She then worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada studying Septoria canker and leaf spot disease of poplar. She is currently an Assistant Professor in Forest Pathology in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences and the Department of Forestry at MSU. The Saklidis lab is currently focusing on oak wilt, white pine and spruce decline but is always on the lookout for new problematic tree diseases in forested and urban settings.

Liz Slajus in the school gardenLiz Slajus, Advanced Master Gardener and Coordinator, MSU Extension

Liz Slajus is an Advanced Master Gardener with over 1100 volunteer hours. She completed the MSU EMG training in 2014 in Marquette. She lives with her husband also a MSU Extension Master Gardener® in Breitung Township and established the Woodland Child Care Children’s Garden in Kingsford, Mich. Her four children attended Kingsford Schools and she wanted to give back to the school system. She was previously an elementary school teacher and this is a great way to work with children and in the garden. The garden is beginning its 7th year, each year expanding to include a vegetable, pollinator and flower gardens. This year she and her husband added an irrigation system to the garden. The garden provides hands-on experience for 80, 2.5-11 year old children from April to November. The garden is financed through community and local grants obtained by Liz. Liz also works part time for MSU Extension in Crystal Falls, Mich.