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NMSU adds new extension weed specialist to work at EPPWS department

Leslie Beck is the newest extension weed specialist and assistant professor in departments of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Weed Science and Extension Plant Sciences at New Mexico State University. She has been in her position for less than a month, but already has many plans and ideas to contribute with outreach activities.

Leslie Beck is the newest weed extension specialist and assistant professor in department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Weed Science at New Mexico State University. (NMSU photo by Angela Simental)

“Dr. Beck is a talented and enthusiastic scientist,” said Gerald Sims, EPPWS department head. “Her experience with turf and other managed systems complements her other expertise already on-board. This complementary skill set extends our reach as a department and expands the breadth of research questions that we can address.”

Beck hails from Stephenville in northern Texas, where she obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Tarleton State University in landscape and horticulture, specializing in golf course management.

She attended Texas Tech University as a PhD student, majoring in turfgrass management, where she focused her research on weed management.

“I started playing golf when I was about 8 years old as something I could do with my dad, and it became very prominent in my life. I began to play competitively in high school,” Beck said. “In college I focused more on my grades than the sport, but because of that interest in golf and because I worked at a golf course during the summer, I became interested in how they were managing it. I started in college believing I was going to be a golf pro and eventually own a manage a golf course.”

During her master’s degree, Beck realized she enjoyed the research and teaching aspect more than management.

“Once I finished my PhD, I went on to Purdue University for a post-doctoral appointment, focusing on weed research and weed management from an extension standpoint,” she said.

The extension education she received at Purdue changed her path, and Beck became very interested in the outreach and education component, which led her to NMSU.

“Dr. Beck has amazing drive and energy, which will serve her well in the very busy schedule required of extension weed scientists. She also comes to us with remarkable depth and experience in extension for someone at her early career stage,” Sims said.

Beck’s research and outreach activities will be interconnected, she explained. In the past, her extension program was successful because she addressed real-world issues affecting her clientele, finding applicable solutions to those problems and disseminating the information.

“I am excited to start and anxious to begin working with other weed specialists and county agents,” Beck said. “Right now, specifically, I am interested in how the hardness of the well water might be affecting the ability of certain herbicides to effectively work against specific weeds. From an extension standpoint, I want to implement a strategy that uses physical specimens in weed identification education.”

Among her many goals, she said she plans to begin thorough databases and create manuals to help with weed id and management.

“She is remarkably collegial and able to work in groups. In fact, she established relationships with colleagues here even before her arrival in Las Cruces,” Sims said. “This trait is critical for success within EPPWS, owing to the need to work together to solve complex problems. We are most pleased to have her join our team.”