Everyday plant health heroes
I see plant health as the bastion to preserve natural environments against exotic pathogens, and as the direction needed to protect livelihoods and increase efficiency in agriculture and forestry.
How did you choose your job? Or did it choose you?
I had great mentors that helped set me on the path to this job. My family has an agricultural/forestry background and direct impacts for farmers and farming efficiency have always been a career goal. I wanted to work in the forestry space and have a passion for native environments.
How long have you worked in this industry?
I have worked full-time for the last six years. My forest health trajectory began more than ten years ago working with mentors in my PhD.
What does plant health mean to you?
I see plant health as the bastion to preserve natural environments against exotic pathogens, and as the direction needed to protect livelihoods and increase efficiency in agriculture and forestry. I have interests in natural resistance, breeding for resistance, acquired resistance, plant protection and biosecurity.
What are your greatest achievements in this role?
- Provided new knowledge to the community on the biology, life cycle, distribution, host range, genome, plant pathogen-interactions, resistance and potential controls of myrtle rust.
- Helped to safeguard native gymnosperms in natural and cultivated environments, including developing preventative methods against Phytophthora for industry.
- Provided ongoing mentorship and training of young plant scientists in South Africa and Australia.
What does a typical day look like for you?
On any given day of the week, I could be traipsing the field surveying for pests and pathogens, inoculating plants in a glasshouse to test for resistance, donning gloves and a lab coat as a molecular biologist and diagnostician, commanding a team of people to inject trees with phosphoric acid, and always with one or two mentees in tow.
What advice would you give anybody wanting to get into the industry?
Find people willing to share their knowledge and time to develop your career, listen to farmers and other pathologists to hear their experiences and insight, learn the biology of the systems so as to design research questions and experiments with impact, and a bit of statistics and bioinformatics can never hurt.