It’s not every day that an opportunity arises to join together to fight an enemy as potent and pernicious as poison ivy.

Those who have suffered from the angry red rash and insidious itching inflicted by this green villain are all too aware that poison ivy/oak lurks in yards and around sidewalks and walking trails, where it waits to make contact with unsuspecting victims. In the years ahead, increases in carbon dioxide levels will amplify this noxious weed, helping it to grow faster, bigger, and stronger. This intruder must be stopped now, before its power magnifies.

John Jelesko, an associate professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science from the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has taken on this task. His mission? To find new, environmentally sustainable ways to combat poison ivy in managed landscapes.

Jelesko is ready to save the day. His lab is the only research facility in the world entirely dedicated to poison ivy/oak research. In fact, his nationally recognized program recently inspired the creation of a fictitious cartoon character named Professor J.J. Burkman. In the cartoon, Burkman aids the famed Partners 5 superheroes in their bid to fight the megalomaniac poison ivy, named “Heart Root.”

Much like Burkman, Jelesko is working with a team of collaborators to understand the fundamentals of poison ivy ecology and metabolism in order to pinpoint the weed’s vulnerabilities. With this vital information in hand, he will then develop environmentally sustainable ways to control the weed.

This is where you come in. The team has launched The ITCHY Project, a crowdfunding opportunity that could, with your support, ensure that you and your family never have to fear this rash-inflicting rogue weed again. With your support, Jelesko will:

1. Conduct additional research into a native fungus that kills poison ivy seedlings. See video.

2. Further develop the ITCHY cell phone app to enable citizen scientists to collect and share poison ivy data with the Jelesko lab.

3. Complete DNA sequencing of the poison ivy genome to understand the plant’s genetic blueprint.

Will you be a genuine hero by joining in this fight? Jelesko and his superhero friends are calling upon you to donate to The ITCHY Project to advance poison ivy science. Everyone who donates will receive a “Poison Ivy League” decal.

For high-level donors (at or above the $43 level), there will be opportunities to receive information and/or samples of an over-the-counter treatment for poison ivy/oak rash from leading firms, such as Zanfel.

Join the fight today to put an end to the itch


Written by Amy Painter

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