GCPSA Executive Committee

President -Michelle Souza Oliveira

Michelle Oliveira was born in Brazil. She started her undergraduate studies at the University of Sao Paulo in 2007, completing a dual bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering and Agricultural Education. She first came to the US in 2011 to do an internship at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center at the University of Florida, working under the supervision of Dr. Natalia Peres. Soon, she started her M.S. degree in Plant Pathology at the same University, graduating in 2015. Her M.S. thesis focused on fungicide resistance profile of quiescent Botrytis cinerea infections on strawberry transplants. Michelle is currently working on her Ph.D. in Plant Pathology mainly focused on Colletotrichum crown rot of strawberry. She is very passionate about teaching and her goal after graduation is to become a professor.

Vice President - Andre Bueno Gama

Andre Bueno Gama was born and raised in Brazil. Andre did an internship in 2014 at UF’s Everglades Research and Education Center with Dr. Richard Raid. After his internship, he got a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Sao Paulo in the same year. He started his master’s degree right after graduation. During his master’s, Andre came twice to the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center to work with Dr. Natalia Peres. After obtaining his M.S. degree, he started his Ph.D. at UF under the guidance of Dr. Peres and Dr. Megan Dewdney. He is currently working on optimizing decision support systems to help strawberry, citrus, and blueberry growers reduce unnecessary fungicide sprays by targeting diseases when weather is most conducive for epidemics. He really enjoys giving talks and has the goal to become a professor in the future. 

Secretary - Adrian Zuniga

Adrian Zuniga was born in Guayaquil and raised in Quevedo, Ecuador. After culminating high school, Adrian enrolled at Zamorano University in 2009 where he got his Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Agronomy. During his undergraduate program, he gained experience in different areas of crop and food production as well as in tissue culture and in vitro reproduction. In the spring of 2012, he did an internship at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, University of Florida where he started working with Dr. Natalia Peres. Adrian returned to work with Dr. Peres and in 2018 obtained his Master of Science Degree in Plant Pathology. He is currently a Ph.D. student in the Plant Pathology Department at UF and one of his research objectives is the rapid detection of mutations in Botrytis cinerea on strawberry conferring resistance to fungicides. Adrian is very passionate when it comes to research and he plans to one-day lead research projects in the industry.

Treasurer - Marcus Marin 

Marcus Vinicius Marin was born and raised in Brazil. Marcus got a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Sao Paulo State in 2016. During that time he had a lot of internship opportunities, such work as academic research intern at Sakata Seed Sudamerica, at the Naktuinbouw (the Netherlands Inspection Service for Horticulture), and at University of Florida (Gulf Coast Research and Education Center). After graduation he started working at Dr. Natalia Peres’ lab as a Research Scholar and in summer of 2018 began his Master’s in Plant Pathology under her supervisor. Marcus currently is working with a pathogen called Phytophthora and its diseases caused on strawberries. He is very excited about research and development and he has a goal to start his Ph.D. degree and to become a professor after graduation.  

Program Development Officer - Ravneet Sandhu

Ravneet Sandhu was born and raised in Punjab, India. Ravneet got a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Sciences in 2014 from the Punjab Agricultural University, Punjab, India. She moved to United States right after her graduation and started Master’s degree at Tennessee State University in August 2014. During her master’s, Ravneet worked in organic Horticulture lab. After attaining her M.S. degree, she joined the Weed Science lab at GCREC as Ph.D. student under the supervision of Dr. Nathan Boyd in 2017. She is currently working on developing new and better double-cropping system for the strawberry and tomato growers of Florida.  She enjoys teaching and has the goal to become a professor after graduation.

Marketing and Communication Officer - Deborah Hilbert

Deborah (Deb) Hilbert was born in Plano, Texas, and was raised in both West Texas and the Florida Gulf Coast. She attended Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, where she managed the organic garden and earned a B.S. in Biology and B.A. in Environmental Studies. Afterwards she had adventures conserving rare plants in the desert backcountry of California and Nevada and leading youth outdoor excursions throughout the Florida swamps. She joined Dr. Koeser’s Urban Trees and Landscaping Lab at the GCREC in fall of 2016 and is currently conducting her Ph.D. research on improving urban tree species diversity in Florida.

Plant City Campus Representative - Ali Gonzalez Perez

Ali Gonzalez Perez was born in Cuba and resided in Florida since 2004. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Mining Engineer from the Superior Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (ISMM), Moa, Cuba in 1995 and received his M.S. degree in Mining Technologies from the same institution in 1997. Ali completed the University of Florida’s Geomatics Certificate in 2019. He worked as a Surveying Crew Leader for 13 years with various companies and has experience in boundary surveying, construction surveying services, wetland delineation and sectional work. Ali acquired the Remote Pilot Certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2018 and performed data acquisition missions using drones as a Research Assistant for the Geomatics program in Plant City since then. He was admitted to the Ph.D. Program in 2019 and will be working on LIDAR technologies and point cloud segmentation and classification.

Faculty Advisor - Dr. Johan Desaeger

Dr. Johan Desaeger was born and raised in Belgium and he graduated as an agricultural engineer from the University of Ghent. He started working with nematodes in 1994 in Kenya at the International Center for Research in Agroforestry. After completing his PhD in Applied Biological Sciences from the University of Leuven in 2001. he moved to the U.S. to work on nematode management in vegetables at the Universities of Florida and Georgia. He made the leap to industry in 2005 when he joined DuPont to start up a nematology program at their former research facility in Delaware. Dr. Desaeger came back to Florida and joined the UF/IFAS faculty in the summer of 2016 to build a new nematology research group at the GCREC. He now lives in a quiet home backed by a large swath of wetlands with his wife, Karla, and his new Florida brown dog, Toby.