Rachel Brooks

School of Plant and Environmental Sciences

Rachel is a Ph.D. student in Virginia Tech’s School of Plant and Environmental Sciences studying how the invasive Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) can be controlled by fungi (Verticillium nonalfalfae and V. dahlias).

After growing up in New Hampshire, Rachel obtained a Bachelors of Science at the University of Vermont studying environmental science. As an undergraduate, Rachel discovered her love of scientific research working as a technician in a biology lab and then running her own undergraduate research experiment at Harvard Forest. Her project studied the impacts of environmental pressures on the aquatic communities found within the northern pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) and how proteomics can be used to monitor these changes.


Following graduation, Rachel set out to determine how she would like to continue her career as a scientist. She spent the next five years testing out different positions. She worked for the University of Minnesota’s BioCON and B4Warmed research projects, a non-profit land conservancy in New Hampshire, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and Washington State’s Thurston County Health Department. Rachel also worked as a contractor for Virginia Tech’s Dr. Salom, collecting hemlock woolly adelgids (Adelges tsugae) and their beetle predators in Washington State. This work strengthened her interest in forest pests and led to her current position.

As forest pests continue to spread throughout the globe, managing these infestations will become increasingly important for both the ecosystems and the humans who depend upon them. Through the Interfaces of Global Change Program, Rachel hopes to learn how to use interdisciplinary research and practical action to improve her ability to manage invasive pests.