Virna Stillwaugh
Virna Stillwaugh

In August, Virna Stillwaugh joined the Northwest Horticultural Council as the new vice president of scientific affairs, replacing David Epstein who retired in June.

“Virna has a wealth of experience obtained through her career as an entomologist, most recently with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Washington, D.C., area and previously with Intrexon/Oxitec, BASF and other pesticide companies,” said Mark Powers, president of the council. 

A native of Peru, Stillwaugh earned her doctorate in entomology at North Carolina State University, focused on bedbugs, while her master’s degree program focused on mosquito ecology. That background led her to work with the private industry on pesticides for public health before she took a role with the EPA’s pesticide registration division. 

“I do see parallels between the public health sector and the agriculture sector, both have the same need to explain to the public why pesticides are necessary,” she said. “I’m passionate about science communication and outreach.”

Stillwaugh moved to Yakima with her family in August.

Claire Murphy
Claire Murphy

There are a lot of crops for the statewide produce safety specialist to focus on in Washington, but luckily for the tree fruit industry, Washington State University’s new hire will be based in the Yakima Valley to facilitate industry research and extension. 

Claire Murphy joined WSU in August, after earning her doctorate and doing postdoctoral research at Virginia Tech. She fills the position left by Faith Critzer, who continues to study produce safety at the University of Georgia. 

“My research background is in understanding pathogen ecology and risk reduction,” said Murphy, who called the WSU position a perfect fit for her education and experience. “I didn’t think there was a better place to be than Washington for produce safety.” 

Murphy moved to Yakima with her husband this summer and will be based at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser. She envisions building a research program that works both in commercial settings and the Prosser labs, so she can run pathogen trials. 

—by Kate Prengaman