Science careers – A day in the work life of an agricultural/horticultural scientist

My name is Lisa Jamieson and I’m an applied
entomologist at Plant & Food Research. We’re trying to control pests on fruit that
we export overseas and to reduce the number of pests on fruit after they’ve been harvested. I was actually at university studying marine
biology, thinking I would get a job counting dolphins in a Zodiac, cruising around the
coast. And then reality hit, I guess, and I started going for related jobs. You take
a crayfish and an insect, they’re similar concepts. So I applied for an entomological
position working with bugs and insects. There’s a lot of challenges, especially
working with bugs. For example, if you’re trying to find out what effect a post-harvest
treatment has on a midge, there’s different types of effects. It could kill the midge
or it could make the midge sterile so it can’t reproduce. So you have to know how to rear
that midge, or breed it so you can follow it through its lifecycle for a few generations
and find out what effect a treatment has on that midge. We have a lot of challenges in
babysitting insects, and rearing them and trying to nurture them, and build up colonies of them. I got interested in science because I was
always looking at creatures on the beach or in rock pools. Never really one to sit on
the beach and sunbathe; more, looking in holes and grooves and rocks, and what’s in the
water. The coolest thing about our work is trying
to find other ways to reduce chemical pesticides. So we’re looking at things like high-pressure
washing to remove the pests and pesticides from the fruit. Some pretty cool UV light
technology that controls pests and diseases, and we’re looking for low toxicity fumigants,
things that are naturally found on fruit anyway. The most important skills are the willingness
to try new ideas, patience so that when things go wrong you can repeat them until you get
things right, and thinking outside of the square. Some of the exciting findings are trying to
work out what causes particular damage on fruit. For example, in lemons we had a rind
spotting problem and tried to find out whether that was caused by a pest or a disease or
climate. We did a range of trials and found out that a little moth lays its eggs on the
rind. And then the larva bores straight in, ruptures an oil gland, causes the spot and
the larvae essentially die. That was a good finding. Quirky! Some of the insect behaviour
is really quirky!

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