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Maria Valeria Avanzato


  • Time Zone

  • Organization
    Coker College

  • Role
    Scientist Mentor: I will mentor teams of students online

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    I am a plant pathologist, a plant doctor :). This career/job allowed me to interact with two of my favorite organisms: plants and fungi. The passion discovered in plants and fungi influenced my research interests and projects. With the help of many of my undergraduate students I had the chance to develop two lines of research: 1) Biodiversity and ecological role of oomycetes (fungal-like organisms) associated with diseases of ornamental aquatic plants- water lilies and, 2) The antimicrobial and antifungal activity of Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel). This part of my research is dedicated to explore plant extracts and their use as potential natural antimicrobial and antifungal agents. For that, I work side by side with a chemistry professor (Dr. H) who helps me out with the identification of the chemical structures of active plants extracts. Team work!

  • Profile Question 1
    What is your favorite plant? Why?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    So hard to pick one! I've been in love of plants since early in my career so I bet I can tell you an amazing story about almost any plant you could pick :). I have worked with soybeans, cotton, water lilies, mountain laurel (Kalmia), pansies and the list goes on. But I guess that if I had to choose one it would be the Venus fly trap, a plant that can actually count! A wonderful adaptation that allow them to sense the presence of the insect visitor by sensing the tapping of their tiny legs. Oh! and ghost pipes (Monotropa uniflora) and actual plant without chlorophyll- how crazy is that? :)

  • Profile Question 2
    When and why did you decide to go into a science career?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
    Well, my last high school year, my Biology Professor planted that seed in my head. Later on, knowing I was going to be a biologist, there were two -Oh My God- classes in College that led my path into becoming a plant pathologist: Introduction to Botany and Plant Pathology. Funny story: When I got into College I thought I was going to be a virologist and plants were not even in my list! Science is a world of wonder, so many amazing areas to pick from. Take the chance and explore them!

  • Profile Question 3
    Can you share a funny/interesting lab or field story?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    So many! One of the memorable field stories happened in Stuttgart, Arkansas while we were counting soybean plants. Beautiful day, a lot of work to do and we suddenly saw the people at the field running like crazy and shouting at us something that was unintelligible...Guess what? There was a wild hog totally mad running toward us in the field!!! Fortunately, nothing happened. The workers hunted him down and nowadays the hog is a trophy at the experimental. station :/ . It was just like the movies!

  • How did you hear about PlantingScience?

  • Availability
    I am NOT available, please temporarily remove me from the available mentor list

  • Capacity: How many teams at a time are you comfortable working with?

Recent Posts


Hi everyone!

Great news! It's normal that some seeds do not germinate. Usually in big experiments and when you have a lot of time to plan, you do a pre-germination test. This tests shows you how good the germination power of the seeds is. The germination of the seeds depends of many factors such as age and time of storage among others. So, doing a pre-test, it allows you to know how good your seeds are. For example if I have a batch of seeds with 70% germinability, that will tell me that 7 out 10 of the planted seeds will germinate and become plants. So, having that information will allow you to know that if you have a poor germination it may not be due to the treatment but due to your seeds were oldies :). Just something to consider in conclusions and future directions, right? 

But you are getting plants already doing well! Great!

Questions here: 1) Once you water the plants, when do you all re-water the plants?, 2) Or is it just one watering event and let them dry?, 3) How many days overall is your experiment?... Just curious- as usual :)

Keep up the good work happy honeysuckles!,

Talk to you all soon,

Dr. Avanzato


Hi Happy Honeysuckles!

Sorry I did not get back to you sooner. I've been sick :(.

I see that you've been busy and posted already pictures of the experiment. That's great! I'd like to know what you decided to do with the amount of water and how you are going to continue to test the drought variable.

As you already noticed, not enough water before germination might not give you any germination at all, which is not good, right? To test the drought effect it would be better if you start with a drought treatment once the plants emerged (meaning you have can see the plant out of the soil). They do not have to be very big, really. Once you have your plants out of the soil, that means that the plant is going to start photosynthesizing and producing all the energy that it needs to keep growing, right? Now, when plants are little (known as seedlings) are very susceptible to not enough water. So, what you could do try is, once the plants are out of the soil, start your drought treatment. For instance, you could decide to keep watering one group daily or every other day, the other group every three days or so and so on. With this you will create more and more stress due to lack of water, and hypothetically plants exposed to more drought will be affected in growth.

What do you all think about that? If you did something different or came up with other great ideas, super! Just let me know. I am always curious :) 

Well, talk to you later,

Dr. Avanzato


Hello everyone!

I see you all have been busy designing your experiment. Isn't that exciting? Here are a few notes:

1) Do not forget to be organized taking notes. Be sure that everything is in a notebook and that all the notes are in there.

2) Take pictures of everything! How you set up the experiment, the material, the pots, how plants grow, etc.

3) You mentioned that you are going to measure height and color of the plants. Now, it may be possible that if you do not have enough water, one of your treatments might not have plants, right? Just seeds in the soil. In that case, do not worry, keep going and at the end of your experiment you can dig out your seeds and take pictures and notes on anything that you can observe. Does it start germinating and stop? Does it show any discoloration? Whatever you see, report it. Science is all about unexpected events :)! The important thing is that you can, after seeing your results, can come up with an explanation to it. Unexpected events always make a discussion more fun :)

Well, happy honeysuckles...keep me posted and have fun!!!

Dr. Avanzato

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