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 life cycle 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!
What does she do: An entomologist is a specialisation of agricultural and horticultural sciences. Lisa studies live insect life cycles and behaviours to find ways to control the pests on harvested fruit for export.
How did she become an entomologist: Lisa became interested in science by looking at creatures in rock pools at the beach. She studied marine biology at university because she wanted to work with dolphins, but there were no jobs available. Then she realised that some marine life, such as crayfish, were very similar to insects so she applied for a job working with insects instead.
What she likes: Finding ways to reduce the use of chemical pesticides on food and food pests.
What you need to know: Part of the job of an entomologist is to raise insects from when they are young. It can be difficult to care for them and keep them alive.
The most important skills are a willingness to try new ideas and patience.
Lisa Jamieson, entomologist
Facts about agricultural/horticultural scientists
Pay: $55K-$100K per year
Chances of getting a job: Good
Length of training: 5-9 years
Qualifications: To become an agricultural/horticultural scientist you usually need a PhD in science in an area such as agricultural science, microbiology or biochemistry.