2012 Young Scholars: Alex Tillack

Alex Tillack
Alex Tillack

University of the Sunshine Coast

We are not just trying to feed an ever growing global population; we are also trying to end the suffering of these communities.

As a first year student of environmental science, attending the conference was an exciting opportunity that certainly did not disappoint. Even at the Speakers’ Reception I was greeted with friendly advice that really helped to direct my studies. Meeting industry professionals and researchers meant that I gained insight into topics and practices that I had no real knowledge about before such as the importance of bush meat in the diets of some communities or how much of the food produced in high poverty areas is sold to the global middle class.

What was really inspiring about the conference was the concept of integrated systems thinking. Professor Jonathan Foley and Professor Xuemei Bai both explained how agricultural systems could impact on and be impacted by, changes in ecological and urban developmental systems. This concept has really captured my attention and caused me to investigate several related research programs in my area including one pertaining to native pollinators. I would also like to thank Dr Christine Padoch who expanded my views beyond research and conservation to consider the very human side of smallholder farming. We are not just trying to feed an ever growing global population; we are also trying to end the suffering of these communities.

Meeting the African PhD students really drove this point home as everyone I spoke to was strongly motivated to improve the living conditions in their communities. Their research tended to target a vast array of diseases affecting staple crops by breeding resistances into the crops and by preventing cross-contamination. The PhD students were all patient enough to answer my questions regarding their research and between them and my fellow scholars I had plenty of fun along the way.

During the session breaks I was blessed to have had the opportunity to talk with several of the lecturers and various organisations all of whom were very helpful, I was even introduced to researchers whose field of study was similar to my own interests! Now that these organisations are no longer some shadowy group located in some distant state, I will definitely be attempting to gain work placements with several of the closer organisations. Attending the conference was an experience and a half, one I gladly have again, but until then I will be content with exploring the myriad of possibilities that the Crawford Fund has made me aware of. With a direction for research inspired by the conference and a new perception of agriculture in general, I am eagerly looking forward to what the future will bring.

Veni, vidi, didici; we came, we saw, we learned.