With little life, or indeed scientific, experience you might ask yourself how much benefit an early career researcher could really get out of spending three weeks at huge institution which is responsible for undertaking world changing agricultural research. David Gale did before a recent trip to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), supported by the Crawford Fund and Graham Centre.
It was the 2013 International Rice Research Institute “Rice: Research to Production” course that David had the opportunity to attend. He was the third CSU PhD student to attend the annual course at IRRI, following in the muddy foot prints of Ray Cowley, in 2009, and Nicola Wunderlich, in 2012. David was also a 2012 Crawford Fund conference scholar, after which he noted that “it was the time spent with other passionate young people also embarking on a journey down this path [of international agricultural aid research] that was the most valuable part of being a Crawford 2012 Scholar”
David getting first hand experience in the rice paddys
The three-week program covered in detail topics such as the basics of rice production in Asia; the germplasm collection at IRRI and current issues related to its exchange; and intellectual property and research issues experienced by IRRI and its partners. As well as teaching technical skills, one of the key course aims was to develop participant understanding of how to structure effective international collaborations in order to, “create a new generation of plant scientists who are well networked into the international community and understand the importance of innovative plant science in addressing global problems.”
On returning to Australia, Mr Gale reported to the Crawford Fund that he entered the course expecting to gain knowledge about research in rice productions systems but came out understanding this process “because someone didn’t just talk about it, they let me try it for myself”.
“Whether it be transplanting rice by hand, selecting individuals for use as parents in breeding a new line, emasculating flowers and artificially pollinating, or interviewing farmers about their production decisions and practices, I was able to participate in the whole process. ”
He went on to say that although he considered the up skilling he received in technical aspects of rice production as important to his professional development, some of the most significant outcomes were “the skills and knowledge obtained through participating in this course which will be of benefit to the career which [he] intends to pursue in undertaking agricultural research projects at a community level in developing countries.”
A passion which he says involvement in this course has driven him to further pursue.
David Gale, or Dave as most people know him, is currently undertaking a PhD investigating the ameliorative affects of compost application to Acid Sulphate Soils in Southern Vietnam. This project is something of an extension of his honours (similar to Masters) research project which looked more broadly at the agronomic benefits of partial substitution of synthetic fertiliser with compost in a Vietnamese baby corn cropping system. In the two years between finishing his honours and beginning his PhD, however, Dave worked for the state department of agriculture in greenhouse (i.e. soil-less) horticulture. His long term goal is to undertake “agricultural research projects at a community level in developing countries”.