Dawn Pettinelli

Associate Extension Educator, Director of Home & Garden Education Center, Director of Soil & Nutrient Analysis Lab

Professional Credentials

  • Certified Master Composter, 2011, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI
  • Certified Master Gardner, 1986, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
  • MS, Forest Science, 1984, Oregon State University
  • BS, Agricultural Production, 1977, Montana State University
  • BS, Natural Resources, 1973-1976, University of Massachusetts


Manages/coordinates activities of the UConn Home & Garden Education Center and the UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory.

The UConn Home and Garden Education Center addresses the needs of Connecticut residents on a wide variety of topics including horticulture, soil testing, home pest control, environmental/pesticide issues and food safety. Clients are educated in best management practices for pest control, soil and water quality, and plant cultural techniques. The goal of the Center is to be a highly respected and visible education outreach program by providing accurate, thorough, and timely information to the citizens of Connecticut. The Center supports the Master Gardener Coordinators in the 8 counties and at the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford by supplying program instructors and diagnostic assistance. The Center also administrates the UConn Master Composter Program. Visit our weekly horticulture blog Ladybug Blog or call our toll-free number with your gardening or pest questions: (877) 486-6271.

In 2006, the Center opened the UConn Plant Diagnostic Laboratory, currently managed by Dr. Nick Goltz, and which participates in the National Plant Diagnostic Network.

The UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory functions dually, as an educational center that focuses on soil, soil fertility, and soil contamination issues and as a service laboratory that offers soil fertility testing to commercial agriculture producers, the green industry, homeowners, and researchers. Starting in 2007, the laboratory began testing soils for lead. Our goal is to increase the public’s awareness of the benefits of soil testing and the necessity of environmentally sound soil fertility management programs. The lab also functions as a teaching resource where CAHNR graduate students learn to run their samples on sophisticated equipment and as a base for numerous outreach activities.

Activities to implement the goals of both facilities include educational presentations, press releases, fact sheets, displays, laboratory upgrades and protocol development, UConn Master Composter Program, television and radio, weekly newspaper columns, websites, free plant and soil pH clinics at events like the CT Flower & Garden Show, a weekly blog, monthly e-updates and development and participation in activities such as the UConn Work Life Expo.


Associate Cooperative Extension Educator, University of Connecticut, Dept. of Plant Science & Landscape Architecture. 2020 – present

  • Teach SPSS 2110W – Sustainable Plant Pest Management Communication, 2019 – present
  • Designed & implemented Qualtrics survey for UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Lab

Assistant Cooperative Extension Educator, University of Connecticut, Dept. of Plant Science & Landscape Architecture. 2005 – 2020

  • Responsible for administration of UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory including daily operations, personnel management, equipment purchases and maintenance, financial obligations, collaboration with researchers, internet presence, program database, and related publications (lab processes 10 – 14,000 samples/year)
  • Developed and implemented plant and tissue analysis protocol at lab including brochure, reports and interpretation for growers and researchers
  • Collaborated with Access programmer to develop new soil test program with up to date and expanded recommendations, beginning 2009
  • Train and oversee graduate students using lab analytical equipment for their research
  • Answer 1000 phone, face-to-face and email inquiries annually
  • Responsible for administration of UConn Home and Garden Education Center including outreach activities, personnel management, internet presence public relations, reporting, financial obligations and related publications (Center receives 4000 inquiries/year)
  • Develop, refine and maintain Soil Lab and Home & Garden Education Center websites
  • Initiated, manage and contribute to weekly Center blog, beginning 2009
  • Initiated, write, publish and distribute monthly Center e-newsletter to >6000 recipients, beginning 2011
  • Write fact sheets, newspaper articles, brochures and press releases
  • Write, edit and solicit articles for UConn Home and Garden News, 2008-2017
  • Coordinate & staff UConn Center/Soil Lab/Master Gardener booth at CT Flower & Garden Show
  • Develop, administer and evaluate UConn Master Composter program, beginning 2009
  • Write, publish and manage mailing list of quarterly Master Composter newsletter, beginning 2011
  • Featured on NBC-30 Cultivating Connecticut horticulture segments, 2006
  • Develop and deliver presentation on soils and other topics to the general public as well as at professional venues
  • Teach UConn Master Gardeners about soils, soil fertility, plant nutrition and composting
  • Teach MA Master Gardeners about soils, soil fertility and plant nutrition
  • Teach Soils & Soil Fertility and Plant Nutrition sections of CNLA/s Accredited Nursery Professional Program
  • Guest lecturer for PLSC 298 (2006), Soils 2125 (since 1999), Turf Mgt 1100 (since 2017)
  • Assist NRCS with statewide soils training for CT Envirothon and administrative of statewide exam
  • Assist NRCS with half day soils session for UConn Natural Resources Conservation Academy
  • Plan, solicit speakers and assist with implementation of UConn Perennial Plant and Garden Conferences as a member of Ornamental Plant Extension Team (2007-2017)
  • Serve on local and regional committees
  • Search committee member thrice for Laboratory Technician II (2007, 2018, 2019)
  • Search committee member for Assistant Extension Educator UConn Plant Diagnostic Lab (2019)
  • Engage in professional development

Extension Instructor/Laboratory Manager, University of Connecticut, Dept. of Plant Science. 1998 – 2005

  • Responsible for administration of UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory including daily operations, personnel management, equipment purchasing and maintenance, financial obligations, chemical hygiene plan, collaboration with researchers, and related publications (lab processes 10,000 samples/year)
  • Oversaw purchasing and installation of inductively coulpes argon plasma spectrometer (ICP)
  • Write/update fact sheets and submit articles for Center newsletter
  • Featured on segment of Martha Stewart Living, 2004
  • Served as member on CPTV Family Science Expo Advisory Board and coordinated soil lab/Master Gardener efforts for exhibit at annual Expo
  • Initiated and staffed free soil pH testing booth at Cornucopia, Know Your Town Fair and CT Flower and Garden Show
  • Teach UConn Master Gardeners about soils, soil fertility, plant nutrition and composting
  • Teach MA Master Gardeners about soils, soil fertility and plant nutrition
  • Search committee chair for Laboratory Technician, 2004
  • Search committee member for Program Assistant, 2004
  • Search committee member for 2 Program Aides, 2004
  • Coordinated weekly newspaper column & wrote biweekly columns starting in 2004
  • Develop and present workshops and talks on soils and related topics to the general public as well as professional organizations
  • Guest lecturer for PLSC 252, SAPL 22, SAPL 029, SAPL 022, PLSC 258
  • Host soil testing lab tours upon request
Newspaper Columnist, Southbridge Evening News. 1989 – 2003
  • Wrote weekly gardening column for publication in Southbridge Evening News and related publications
Extension Technician, University of Massachusetts Soil and Plant Testing Laboratory, Amherst, MA. 1989 – 1998
  • Responsible for soil and plant tissue preparation
  • Made reagents and maintained chemical inventory
  • Trained and oversaw student employees
  • Analyze samples using pH meter, ICP, atomic absorption unit, ion selective electrodes and other laboratory equipment
  • Responded to phone inquiries
  • Wrote fact sheets
  • Designed exhibit and represented lab at Massachusetts Horticulture Society Flower Show in Boston
Horticulture Technician/Master Gardener Coordinator, Worcester MA County Cooperative Extension. 1988 – 1989
  • Selected candidates, solicited speakers, created agenda, facilitated training sessions, conducted evaluation, final exam and monthly newsletter & meetings for Master Gardeners and interns
  • Contributed written materials for UMass Garden Clippings, UMass Garden Calendar and the Extension Center’s quarterly newsletter
  • Mentored Master Gardener interns and their interactions with clients on the phone and in person
  • Responded to inquiries from public on various horticultural topics
  • Wrote and updated fact sheets
  • Responded to newspaper requests for horticultural information
Horticulturist, Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, MA. 1986 – 1988
  • Created designs and selected plants for annual, perennial, bulb and mum plantings
  • Raised 10,000 plants each year from seed for bedding
  • Maintained garden beds including pruning, watering, fertilizing and pest control
  • Develop and delivered presentation at OSV Garden Days
  • Managed and propagated plants in 3 greenhouses

Professional Societies

  • Soil Society of Southern New England, professional member
  • Soil Science Society of America, member
  • GardenComm (formerly Garden Writers Association), professional member


  • Doris Lane Award, Outreach/Public Engagement. UConn Cooperative Extension. 2018
  • Arland R. Meade Communications Award, Outreach/Public Engagement, UConn Cooperative Extension. 2014
  • CNLA Accreditation Program, Citation for service. 2010
  • National Future Farmers of America, Citation for service. 1999
  • Exotic Cage Bird Society of New England, Citation for service. 1988
Contact Information
Mailing AddressSoil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory 6 Sherman Place, Unit 5102 Storrs, Connecticut 06269-5102
Office LocationDepot Campus, Union Cottage