Nick Lepak

Field Technician

Contact Information:

USDA

Cornell University

175 Biotechnology Building

Ithaca, NY 14853

Email:nkl@cornell.edu

 

I’ve always been interested in plants and nature. It was a toss-up upon high school graduation as to whether I would pursue an environmental conservation degree or one more focused on plant science. I chose the latter and received an associate degree in ornamental horticulture and landscape development at FLCC and later a bachelor degree in agronomy from SUNY Cobleskill. During those summers I had the opportunity to work for Agway as a crop scout all around central NY as well as for several golf courses in central and western NY. Soon after graduation I was hired on at the NYSAES (New York State Agriculture Experiment Station) as a technician working with the USDA-PGRU (Plant Genetic Resource Unit) in the apple, grape, and tart cherry collections.

 

I’ve been fortunate to continue to be able to pursue my interests with plants, and since joining the Buckler group in 2005, it has been my responsibility to keep the field nurseries and greenhouse projects moving along. This entails everything from field design, tool development, trait measurements, harvest, and processing.  Over the course of time I've been lucky enough to have been able to have helped, although in a limited capacity, many up and coming scientists in terms of field and greenhouse trials. While our group and other researchers are using various sensors and technologies to measure plant traits in conjunction with genetic approaches to assist in identifying key regions of the genome that could prove useful in terms of breeding, commercial agriculture is continuing to move towards precision agriculture in an effort to combat field variation while reducing the environmental impact that current practices greatly effect. 

 

For side projects on the maize side, I am interested in identifying regions of resistance/tolerance to the Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), a pest that I first encountered while scouting corn back in my college days and continue to struggle with in our Puerto Rico field sites. I am also interested in herbicide tolerance as we’ve experienced some damage with various widely used products. Some of our materials lend themselves to this study very well as there is great diversity and in our inbred lines as well as the way the families were constructed. Following the Buckler groups former lab manager’s (Denise Costich) lead, we have assembled a diverse panel of Tripsacum sp. from which we've created F1 crosses between northern and southern locations and species. With Tripsacum being a not too distant relative to maize, there is the potential for great gains to be made in terms of insect and disease resistance as well as cold tolerance and other important agronomic traits.

 

Education:

1997 – 1999 A.A.S  Horticulture and Landscape Development

Finger Lakes Community College

Canandaigua, NY 

 

1999-2001  B.S. Agronomy

Cobleskill University

Cobleskill, NY 

 

 

 

 

Panzea was funded by the National Science Foundation, Plant Genome Research Project, award #1238014: “The Biology of Rare Alleles in Maize and Its Wild Relatives”; the research groups on this project were also supported by the USDA-ARS, their home institutions, and/or various other sources of funding.