The public service position is responsible for creating educational resources and training materials to help private and commercial pesticide applicators obtain proper certifications for the safe and effective use of pesticides throughout the state.
Johnson, a tried-and-true Georgia Bulldog, earned bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Department of Entomology. Throughout her undergraduate studies, Johnson participated in the Public Service and Outreach (PSO) Student Scholars Program, which she attributes with kindling her desire to pursue a career in service to others.
“My mother was a teacher, and it has always been a part of who I am as well — an educator at heart. When considering this position, I thought to myself, how am I going to make something as important as pesticide safety engaging?” said Johnson of her new role.
As part of an already well-developed program, Johnson hopes to increase accessibility by modernizing program materials to include webinar trainings, interactive presentations and having educational materials translated into multiple languages.
“Learning the core content for private and commercial pesticide applicator certification and making sure to stay current on recertification credits post licensure can be overwhelming, so my goal is to restructure the way this information is disseminated to make it easier for people to obtain and maintain their certifications,” Johnson explained. “It’s important for all of us that the people who are applying pesticides are doing it in a way that is safe for themselves, for the people around them and for the environment.”
UGA’s PSEP educational resources cover a broad range of pesticide safety topics including pest identification, personal safety, safe storage and disposal of pesticides, environmental protection, pesticide drift and runoff prevention, threatened and endangered species protection, pollinator protection, water quality protection, and feed and food safety.
In addition, special training programs are being redeveloped for public service employees, volunteers such as Master Gardeners, homeowners and anyone looking to learn more about the responsible and safe use of pesticides in Georgia.
Johnson hopes to revitalize connections with UGA Extension agents as well as the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators and state trade associations.
“Expanding communications with our stakeholders will be the best strategy for assessing needs from a programmatic standpoint,” said Johnson.
Sketching out her first-year plans as PSEP coordinator, Johnson believes collaborating with the UGA Integrated Pest Management Program will be a critical step in developing more competence and confidence with pesticide safety.
“I believe IPM is the most beneficial strategy for managing pests,” she said. “I think there is no better way to encourage safe and effective pesticide use than by adopting an integrated approach. Being smart about your management choices is better for your safety, the environment and your wallet.”
To learn more about the Pesticide Safety Education Program, visit extension.uga.edu.