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Pathogen hunters: Non-scientist engagement in plant disease research

Hulbert, J.M., Burgess, T.I.ORCID: 0000-0002-7962-219X, Roets, F. and Wingfield, M.J. (2018) Pathogen hunters: Non-scientist engagement in plant disease research. In: International Congress of Plant Pathology (ICPP), July 29 - August 03, 2018, Boston, MA.


Cape Citizen Science ( is a plant disease awareness initiative in South Africa. The pilot study was designed to reveal the diversity and distribution of Phytophthora species in the Cape Floral Kingdom. The project has engaged many non-scientists as pathogen hunters and samples have been submitted from several plant producers, botanical gardens, nature reserves, and national parks. Citizen engagement activities have revealed the presence of multiple species of Phytophthora previously undocumented in South Africa and they have facilitated the discovery of at least one novel species. The most recent phase of the project invited citizens to participate in The Cape Town Hypothesis Test, a study designed to promote the early detection of Phytophthora species introductions in urban areas of Cape Town. This pilot study has pioneered the application of several methods of public engagement in plant disease research. Citizens have submitted samples from their home gardens, invited researchers to collect samples on private property, participated in hikes for science and training workshops and they have reported dying plants online. The project has also revealed an abundance of opportunities to involve non-scientists in important microbiological research. Based on our experiences, we recommend establishing similar initiatives to Cape Citizen Science in other parts of the world.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre of Excellence for Climate Change and Forest and Woodland Health
Publisher: American Phytopathological Society
Conference Website:
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