David G. Schmale III


Program Focus

One of the goals of the Schmale lab is to understand how microorganisms are transported over long distances in the atmosphere. Members of the Schmale lab have developed technologies with autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to sample microbes tens to hundreds of meters above the surface of the earth. Another goal of the Schmale lab is to develop strategies to detect, monitor, and control mycotoxins (fungal chemicals that are harmful to domestic animals and humans) in feed and food products.  Members of the Schmale lab use gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) to detect and quantify mycotoxins in small grains and barley ethanol co-products. Research in the Schmale Laboratory cuts across traditional boundaries of scientific disciplines, blending advanced technologies in the fields of aerobiology, plant pathology, engineering, and molecular genetics.

Current Projects

  • Christner, B., Vinatzer, B., Schmale, D.G., Weber, C., Morris, C., and Sands, D. $1,997,876. NSF. Research on Airborne Ice-Nucleating Species (RAINS). 1/1/13 to 12/31/16. Co-Principal investigator.
  • Schmale, D.G. $20,477. Virginia Small Grains Board. Tracking the long distance transport of the fungus that causes FHB in wheat and barley. 07/2012 to 06/2013. Principal investigator. Renewal.
  • Schmale, D.G. $64,523.USDA-USWBSI. Diagnostic testing services for deoxynivalenol in the eastern U.S. 05/2012 to 04/2013. Principal investigator. Renewal.
  • Ross, S. and Schmale, D.G. $429,931. NSF. Dynamical mechanisms influencing the population structure of airborne pathogens: Theory and observations.  09/2011 to 08/2014. Co-Principal investigator.
  • Schmale, D.G., and Woolsey, C. $120,000. ICTAS. Real-time detection and tracking of biological threat agents in the lower atmosphere using autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles.  07/2011 to 07/2013. Principal investigator.
  • Stremler, M., Davalos, R., Ross, S., Schmale, D.G., and Cimini, D. (PIs) and 15 participants. $3,000,000. NSF. IGERT-MultiScale Transport in Environmental & Physiological Systems (MultiSTEPS). 8/2010 to 7/2015. Co-Principal Investigator.


Ph.D., Plant Pathology, Cornell University

B.S., Biological Sciences, University of California, Davis


  • 2011-present: Associate Professor, Virginia Tech
  • 2006-2011: Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech

Selected Major Awards

  • One of the Brilliant Ten, Popular Science Magazine (2013)
  • Teacher of the Week, CIDER, Virginia Tech (2011)
  • Sporn Award, Virginia Tech Undergraduate Teaching Excellence (2010)
  • Member, Virginia Tech Academy of Teaching Excellence (2010)
  • Favorite Faculty Award, Office of Residence Life at Virginia Tech (2010)
  • Excellence in Remote Sensing & Precision Ag, Natl Assn of County Ag Agents (2008)

Courses Taught

  • PPWS 2004: Mysterious Mushrooms, Malicious Molds
  • PPWS 5054: Plant Pathogenic Agents

Other Teaching and Advising

I teach a large undergraduate course (>100 students) at Virginia Tech titled ‘Mysterious Mushrooms, Malicious Molds’. The course is an examination of the fungi and their close relatives, with special attention to their roles in the natural world and in shaping the course of human history. Emphasis is placed on the historical and practical significance of fungi as sources of medicine, pathogens of plants and animals, rotters and decayers of organic matter, makers of food and drink, manufacturers of dangerous toxins, and producers of mind-altering chemicals. I received a university-wide undergraduate teaching award (The Sporn Award) and was inducted into the Virginia Tech Academy of Teaching Excellence in 2010 for this course.

I have created a series of YouTube movies about research in my laboratory. These movies are aimed at attracting students to the fields of engineering and biology.

Program Focus

Education and outreach in the Schmale Laboratory impacts commercial growers and producers of agricultural commodities and improves the retention of students and agricultural professionals in science and engineering.

David G. Schmale III
  • (540) 231-6943
  • dschmale@vt.edu
  • 403 Latham Hall
    Mail code: 0390
    220 Ag Quad Lane
    Blacksburg, VA 24061