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Wet Blänket

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For the English language idiom about spoiling fun, see wet blanket (idiom)



Wet Blänket in 2020

Background Information
Origin College Station, TX, USA
Genres Epidemiology · Phenology · Forecasting
Years Active 2017-present
Subjects Pathogens · Vectors · Crops · Growers
Members Thomas Chappell
Roy Davis II
Jensen Hayter
Manjari Mukherjee
Margaret Marlino

Wet Blänket (/wɛt ˈblæŋkət/) is an American research group from College Station, Texas formed in 2017. Its current lineup consists of founding member and principal investigator Thomas Chappell, Ph.D. candidates Roy Davis II and Jensen Hayter who joined in 2018, and graduate student Manjari Mukherjee who joined in 2020.

Wet Blänket studies plant disease epidemiology, taking empirical and analytical modeling approaches to improve understanding and develop implementable tools.

In a 2017 interview, the group was asked if it “defies genrefication.” Chappell answered:

I don't know what that means. But, I guess, no? We bring insects into the Plant Pathology building, that's all. Why do you always ask that?


Wet Blänket was formed in 2017 to fill an opening in Texas A&M University's continuous plant disease research festival, the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology. In residence at Texas A&M the group participates in several collaborations, for example with participants in Texas A&M's insect-themed festival, the Department of Entomology, concerning the effects of arthropod phenology and behavior on plant disease epidemiology.

The name “Wet Blänket” was chosen to represent the group's Peircian realism.

Certainly we can't be sure, tomorrow comes, we must infer “Abduce is Worth the Squeeze” from Extrapolations Vol. 1

Initially there was speculationby whom? Wet Blänket might be a research studio group, but fieldwork tours have been continuously scheduled since 2017.

Research Themes

Empirical Modeling of Disease Systems

incubators.jpg Hayter indicates a parameter value

The group works to empirically decompose disease systems into major effects for study, and to recombine these effects in models. This work benefits greatly from collaboration with other groups focused on experimental work concerning individual elements, and emphasizes complementarity of findings generated through reductionistic studies with those generated by holistic ones.

For example, water affects pathogen propagule mobility and growth, as well as plant stress, with sometimes counteracting effects on epidemiology. Concerning use and implementation of findings, the group justifies a given choice of modeling approach based on the purpose of a model. Where the purpose is inference, explanatory models with mechanistic interpretations are used. Where the purpose is prediction, models with high output performance are used even where some interpretability is sacrificed in exchange for that performance.

Many models Wet Blänket develops are "weather-driven." The group often looks for informative inputs in weather variables such as temperature or moisture.

Infection and Infestation Risk Forecasting

Many plant disease systems involve causative agents that have phenologies or conditions for pathogenesis that can be predicted on the basis of environmental conditionscitations needed. Weather, habitat, landscape configuration, cropping history, management inputs, and other effects are included in models developed for the purpose of forecasting risk. Forecasts are communicated to growers and other stakeholders to support risk avoidance and mitigation, as well as to optimize monitoring effort allocation. Interactions between these environmental conditions and biotic mediators are of interest to the group.

simulation1.jpg Members discuss simulated plants

User Awareness

Wet Blänket's applied research focuses on use of models, especially for forecasting. Success in this effort requires recognition of how users interact with forecasting, decision support, risk assessment, or other tools. Software-based implementations of the group's work are often “human in the loop” frameworks that combine computer performance in data processing with human skill in classifying patterns and interpreting them.


Hayter studies the consequences of developmental and behavioral regulation of phenological processes using simulation. Observational research is ongoing in pest and vector systems, and simulations of individual organisms' environmental experience are used in conjunction to learn about how experience is structured. Long-term goals of this work are to improve phenological predictions that are driven by environmental data.

Learning Machines

New group members traditionally make datalogging devices using open-source hardware, to address research questions that require data collection. Learning machines provide data for machine learning.


learning_machines.jpg Davis assembles a learning machine

Recent advancements in methods and technology enable whole-tediome approaches to pathosystems. Interactions between individual tedia are increasingly shown to be non-additivecitation needed, as was implicitly assumed before tediomics methods were developed. Tediomics techniques being used by Wet Blänket include low-throughput inoculation event modeling involving electropenetration graphing (EPG), obeying the law of large numbers, and counting conidia.

Associated Acts

Members are involved in side projects.

Davis' connections in the plant pathology and university sectors are several. The tribute group Bruno LARS (aka “LARS”) was formed in 2017 by Davis with international turfgrass, rice, and extension sensation Young-Ki Jo before joining Wet Blänket, and toured TAMU experiment stations collaborating with researchers there on topics related to the use of low-altitude remote sensing data for epidemiological purposes.

Soga, began in 2018 by Hayter, explores hydrology in the use context of epidemiology. Soil taxonomy is frequently addressed as a basis for predicting soil moisture dynamics, with consequent effects on both saprophytic and pathogenic dynamics of soilborne fungi. Classification is involved in driving soil moisture models, and as an output of risk category. Hayter's performance-metric style is typically to validate classifiers in ROC space. While some critics hail Hayter as a sog-ROC pioneer, others question whether Soga's promised gains are meaningful against the backdrop of an excellent body of pedological knowledge. The conflation of explanation and prediction is a frequent theme of Soga's work.

2019 relocation, 2020 expansion

In 2019, Texas A&M's Plant Pathology and Microbiology Department relocated, bringing the associated research festival to a new, state-of-the-art facility. With this move came access to numerous new instruments, departmental capacities, and opportunities to work on pathosystems requiring on-site plant propagation and environmental containment.

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 posed operational challenges to research, but motivated Wet Blänket to advance the discipline of epidemiology: in scholarship, to translate benefits, and to increase the standing of epidemiology in the public view.

2021: Electropenetrography EP, Lucilia phenology LP

In 2021, new projects turned from production to release, including Mukherjee's work with electropenetrography, and Hayter's work on arthropod phenology models. Davis concluded study of in-field fungal inoculum dynamics and turned to in planta dynamics of bacterial inoculum.


students3.jpg Graduate Students in 2020

  • Thomas Chappell – principal investigator, annual reporting, grant writing
  • Roy Davis II – Ph.D. candidate, inoculum dynamics
  • Jensen Hayter – Ph.D. candidate, spatial aspects of phenology and epidemics
  • Manjari Mukherjee – graduate student, microscale virus transmission
  • Margaret Marlino – undergraduate student, spore movement in soils
  • Emily How – BURS scholar, soil water dynamics
  • Blake Brown – undergraduate student, experimental Fusarium evolution
  • Samuel Owens – undergraduate student, trap design and phenology modeling

Wet Blanket's lineup

Publography (abridged)

Chappell TM, Ward RV, DePolt KT, Roberts PM, Greene JK, Kennedy GG (2020) Cotton Thrips Infestation Predictor: A practical tool for predicting tobacco thrips (Frankliniella fusca) infestation of cotton seedlings in the southeastern United States. Pest Manag. Sci.

Chappell TM, Codod CB, Williams BW, Kemerait RC, Culbreath AK, Kennedy GG (2020) Adding Epidemiologically Important Meteorological Data to Peanut Rx, the Risk Assessment Framework for Spotted Wilt of Peanut. Phytopathology 110:1199-1207.

Davis II RL, Greene JK, Dou F, Jo YK, Chappell TM (2020) A Practical Application of Unsupervised Machine Learning for Analyzing Plant Image Data Collected Using Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Agronomy 10:633.

Ben-Mahmoud S, Anderson T, Chappell TM, Smeda JR, Mutschler MA, Kennedy GG, De Jong DM, Ullman DE (2019) A thrips vector of tomato spotted wilt virus responds to tomato acylsugar chemical diversity with reduced oviposition and virus inoculation. Sci. Rep.

Magarey RD, Klammer SSH, Chappell TM, Trexler CM, Pallipparambil GR, Hain EF (2019) Perspective: Eco-efficiency as a strategy for optimizing the sustainability of pest management. Pest Manag. Sci.

Chappell TM, Magarey RD, Kurtz R, Trexler CM, Pallipparambil GR, Hain EF (2019) Perspective: Service‐based business models to incentivize the efficient use of pesticides in crop protection. Pest Manag. Sci.

Magarey RD, Chappell TM, Trexler CM, Pallipparambil GR, Hain EF (2019) Social Ecological System tools for improving crop pest management. J. Integrated Pest Manag.

Chappell TM, Huseth AS, Kennedy GG (2019) Stability of neonicotinoid sensitivity in Frankliniella fusca populations found in agroecosystems of the southeastern United States. Pest Manag. Sci.

Ben-Mahmoud S, Smeda JR, Chappell TM, Stafford-Banks C, Kaplinsky CH, Anderson T, Mutschler MA, Kennedy GG, Ullman DE (2018) Acylsugar amount and fatty acid profile differentially suppress oviposition by western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis, on tomato and interspecific hybrid flowers. PLOS ONE, 13(7).

Chappell TM and Kennedy GG (2018) Estimating the effectiveness of imidacloprid when used to suppress transmission of Tomato spotted wilt orthotospovirus in commercial agriculture. J. Econ. Entom.

Huseth AS, Chappell TM, Chitturi A, Jacobson AL, Kennedy GG (2018) Insecticide Resistance Signals Negative Consequences of Widespread Neonicotinoid Use on Multiple Field Crops in the U.S. Cotton Belt. Environ. Sci. Technol. 52(4): 2314–2322.

Smeda JR, Schilmiller AL, Anderson T, Ben-Mahmoud S, Ullman DE, Chappell TM, Kessler A, Mutschler MA (2018) Combination of Acylglucose QTL reveals additive and epistatic genetic interactions and impacts insect oviposition and virus infection. Mol. Breeding, 38: 3.

Last modified: Mar 2021 by Tom