Forest Insect and Disease Newsletter

Meet Ryan Blaedow, New Regional Forest Health Specialist

photo: Photo fo Ryan BlaedowAfter two years of missing a limb in southern Minnesota, we were finally able to fill our empty Forest Health Specialist position in March 2012. Lucky for us, Ryan Blaedow agreed to return to Minnesota after five years with the North Carolina Forest Service.

Ryan is originally from West Allis, WI (just west of the original site of the Allis-Chalmers tractor manufacturing company). He says "The first tree disease I was ever exposed to was black knot of cherry...as kids we thought it was fossilized dinosaur droppings. It looks like droppings that must have fallen from really high up." I'd say Ryan has very good observational skills (along with imagination). His love of the outdoors came from his dad, an avid deer hunter who brought Ryan out in the woods when he was just five years old. He now enjoys bow-hunting, morel hunting, and rare native plant hunting, among many other outdoor activities.

Ryan was pursuing a wildlife degree at University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point until he took an introductory course with Dr. Hans Schabel and decided to switch majors to plant pathology. There was no forest pathology major available at Point, so he focused on urban forestry, tree physiology and tree health issues. His interest in tree physiology and anatomy led him to Purdue University to work with Dr. William Chaney (well-known in urban forestry circles). Ryan also had an interest in tree-climbing, which led to a more general climbing interest; especially rock climbing (he claims to have a wicked fast foot-lock on single line). The rock climbing, wildlife interest, and hunting background all gave him an opportunity to work in Greenland doing falcon research prior to grad school.

Ryan remembers: "My two years in Greenland were amazing and life changing, obviously.We lived in a remote base camp for four to five months out of the year and studied the predatory habits of gyrfalcons and peregrine falcons. We mounted video cameras in eyries (cliff nests) and monitored what the adults fed to chicks…Collected prey samples, banded falcons, and conducted prey population surveys. Operating from a remote camp, we were completely self-sustaining...got dropped off, had a food cache, fished and hunted for a lot of our own food and checked in weekly with the nearest town via satellite phone. We hiked 10-20 miles a day, rock climbed, rappelled down 600-foot cliffs, worked out of helicopters, total extreme stuff! Glad I was young (and survived it)."

After Greenland, Ryan went to Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN for his master's degree.His research focused on using synthetic growth regulatory compounds to control tree diseases;specifically, the translocation of systemic fungicides and growth regulators and their utilization for disease management. From there, Ryan came to the University of Minnesota, where he worked with Jenny Juzwik at the USFS Northern Research Station.

His systemic fungicide work continued with much-needed research on the use of systemic fungicides for oak wilt control, understanding how the oak wilt pathogen moves through root systems, and looking at how altered physiological and anatomical features of oaks (induced by synthetic growth regulators) might help induce resistance to oak wilt.

We are so fortunate that Ryan responded to our position opening, and he has this to say about the DNR Forest Health Unit: "I have been extremely impressed with the professionalism of the forest health staff and the status of the forest health program...most states are not so lucky. I have to say it is a bit intimidating to work with a team that is so experienced and so knowledgeable, but I really hope I can contribute something new (coming from a slightly different background). I am here to help and look forward to assisting wherever I am needed. I guess that is what makes my job most rewarding...helping where I can. Don't hesitate to call!" Ryan's region spans roughly from Pine Co. , over to Big Stone and all counties south.

Welcome aboard, Ryan!