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Dr Tania Brenes-Arguedas

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Tania is a plant ecologist and biostatistician.  Before joining QBE she worked on a range of research and consultancy positions in South, Central and North America. Tania is the Associate Director for the Western Plant Diagnostic Network and the NPDN National Coordinator, responsible for implementation of management actions approved by the NPDN Executive Committee. In her work with WPDN/NPDN Tania interacts with plant diagnosticians across the USA and US Pacific territories, and state and federal phytosanitary regulators.  Tania is also the senior analyst in QBE and contributes her analytical skills to projects on HLB and pest exclusion as well as serving on the DATOC expert panel.

Brianna McGuire


Brianna's background is in environmental horticulture and plant pathology.  In QBE she manages a large, multi-PI project with the California Department of Food and Agriculture in which we are helping to analyze and improve approaches for detection of exotic pests and several long-running programs for pest and disease management.  As well as managing that project Brianna contributes her expertise in data analysis to our work on HLB and disease management in grapes.  She is a member of the DATOC expert panel for HLB in California.

Dr Sandra Olkowski


Sandra's experience in disease surveillance covers a wide range of systems from human and plant health including dengue, HLB and Pierce's Disease.  Sandra is part of the analytical team working on the CDFA project aimed at improving detection of exotic pests.  In addition to data analysis tasks associated with that project, Sandra also provides project management support and is active in QBE mentoring graduate and undergraduate students.

Research students

Kaity Coleman


Kaity's research is centered on the theme of information.  She is working on a USDA-NIFA funded project, led by Prof Gitta Coaker, looking at sources of innate resistance to Liberibacter (the cause of HLB) in citrus.  She is also working on studies of how actions taken on the basis of thresholds change the dynamics of disease, and the information capacity of plant pathogen recognition systems.

Sara Garcia Figuera


Sara is studying the governance system for the management of HLB in California using a Socio-Ecological Systems Framework. Her work is interdisciplinary, and uses a range of concepts drawn from political science, environmental management, epidemiology, and economics to understand how invasive diseases can be managed effectively.  Aspects of Sara's research have informed regulatory changes in California aimed at reducing unintentional spread of disease vectors.

Alec Schmidt


Alec is a PhD student in the Graduate Group in Epidemiology. His research is split between QBE and working with Dr. Miriam Nuño in the UC Davis School of Public Health. In QBE, Alec is studying the long term area-wide management program for Glassy Winged Sharpshooter (the vector for strains of Xyllela fastidiosa causing Pierce's Disease) in the southern San Joaquin Valley. His work uses a range of geographic, statistical, and mathematical approaches to understand the complex dynamics of the vector population.

Sam Brinker

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Sam Brinker is a PhD student in the Graduate Group in Epidemiology. He works in bioinformatics and model building in the QBE lab. Sam is interested in biosecurity and early detection systems.

The QBE group PI


Hello. I'm Neil McRoberts, a member of faculty in the Plant Pathology Department at UC Davis and a researcher in the California Agriculture Experiment Station.  I grew up in the east of Scotland, studied at the University of Edinburgh, and worked in Scotland for 20 years as a researcher and teacher before moving to UC Davis in 2010.

In establishing QBE I wanted to create an interdisciplinary environment for studying the interaction between people and plant diseases, one where we use what we learn from research to solve plant disease problems in the real world.  We work closely with a wide range of stakeholders in California and elsewhere.  A strong element of our work is on strategic (or preventative) plant disease management, so we interact a lot with state and federal regulatory agencies, and carry out research aimed at improving their ability to provide effective regulatory approaches for excluding or eradicating diseases.

In addition to leading QBE I am also an affiliate adviser in the UC statewide IPM program, and a faculty affiliate of the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior - a fantastic interdisciplinary research group run by Prof Mark Lubell, with whom I collaborate on decision-making and cooperation problems in agriculture.