Meet "Mr Christmas Tree"

The scientist who researches Christmas trees all year round

Ah, Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. Spending time with friends and family, eating your body weight in festive foods, consuming the entirety of the alcohol cabinet, playing board games until the silly hours of the night and decorating the Christmas tree that sits aglow amidst the celebrations.

Wouldn't it be grand if it could be Christmas every day? Well, for one researcher, it sort of is.

Meet Mr Christmas Tree
Meet Plant Pathologist and Extension Specialist Professor Gary Chastagner, also commonly referred to as "Mr Christmas Tree".

For the last 40 years, Chastagner has dedicated his scientific career at Washington State University (WSU) to researching Christmas trees, grappling with tree diseases, analyzing different species from across the globe and tackling the issue of needle retention. His latest endeavors include a $1.5 million United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded project that aims to identify genetic markers of fir trees with desired characteristics and resistance to Phytophthora root rot, a major issue for the Christmas tree industry.

I know what you're thinking. Working with Christmas trees all year round – is this fir-real? It sounds like the dream job, and I'm keen to discover how one finds themselves in such a seemingly "niche" career.

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