- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 18, 2004

All living creatures eventually die. Many times, a disease causes their demise, and that’s when the pathologist takes notice. His job is to study the nature of disease, how it spreads and its possible management.

This area of research even extends to the leafy members of society. The forest pathologist works on solving the complexities of tree disease and its ecological and economic impacts.

James Worrall, who has spent more than 20 years studying trees and the pathogens that attack them, has set up a Web site to tutor students, forest lovers and environmentalists about the finer points of his field.

Forest & Shade Tree Pathology

Site address: www.forest pathology.org

Creator: Mr. Worrall of Gunnison, Colo., started the site 10 years ago and has maintained it ever since.

Creator quotable: “I created the site primarily to help students learn forest pathology. It began as a part of the course I taught at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse,” Mr. Worrall says. “However, other schools were using it, and when I left academia, I decided to maintain the site as a public service. It is also used by interested public and professionals.”

Word from the Webwise: This self-proclaimed “online textbook” uses a simple design, plenty of words, source material from the U.S. Forest Service and a smattering of illustrations to offer a comprehensive primer on 14 General Topics pages, six Disease Profiles pages and a Miscellaneous section.

The Disease Profiles section includes detailed discussions on a pathogen’s hosts, cycle, symptoms, distribution and management as it explores such killers as chestnut blight, oak wilt, swiss needle cast and the scary-sounding sudden oak death.

The intriguing General Topics section features loads of information on rusts (obligate parasites and biotrophs), cankers (localized necrosis of the bark and cambium on stems, branches or twigs), wood decay (deterioration by primarily enzymatic activities of microorganisms) and a 3,000-word lesson on disease ecology and management.

Yes, the multisyllabic minefield of terminology can make the eyes water. However, the site uses very friendly pop-up definition boxes that will help untangle brain-twisting terms.

Visitors need only move the mouse cursor over a word highlighted in blue, such as pseudothecia (a fruiting body containing double-walled asci, formed by hollowing out of a stroma, usually with a pore at the tip) or necrosis (dying of any tissues, usually obvious because of darkening and shriveling) to be, well, sort of enlightened.

Additionally, plant pathologists will find a Log Blog to record their observations and thoughts about tree disease and a calendar of upcoming forest pathology meetings and key events.

Ease of use: The site should work on any browser accepting JavaScript and only needs the Adobe Acrobat plug-in to read the posted PDF files.

Don’t miss: For visitors who think they understood the information on the site, Mr. Worrall provides a 10-question Ethnopathology Quiz with answers available via that neat pop-up definition box.

Elements on the horizon: According to Mr. Worrall, more disease profiles will be added over time.

Comprehension level: The text will be most enjoyable to college students, professionals and other inquiring persons who commonly investigate the diseased demise of barked brethren or simply need ideas for term papers. Gardeners looking for a reason their dogwood looks unhappy need not apply.

Overall grade: A

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it’s accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the science or technology fan? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]washington times.com).


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