I feel that ACIAR achieves what they set out to do in their graduate program, which is to encourage and support more young agriculturalists into a research career.
Hi, I am Bonnie, a young researcher in agriculture for international development, founding member of RAID, and soon to be PhD student and ACIAR graduate program alumnus. This is my valedictory and fond farewell…
My previous jobs, pre ACIAR, included work as a farm hand on several different livestock and cropping properties, a pearl boat deckhand and a casual oat/ wheat breeding employee. For those who haven’t had to harvest oats, on an open cab trial harvester on a 40 degree day, or clean oat samples – this is less than desirable. I must say, it has been nice to get a taste of a job with air conditioning and a comfortable chair.
Just prior to my ACIAR employment, I was lucky enough to work as a crop and livestock project officer in Tibet, for 6 months as part of the Australian volunteer program. In Tibet, I got my first real experience in agricultural research (post honours) when managing a trial on dual-purpose crops. I was hooked and wanted more of this action.
It was also in Tibet, that I met ACIAR CEO Nick Austin and Research Program Manager Peter Horne, and learned about the ACIAR graduate program. I somehow managed to mention, tactfully, that this was the program for me, upon my returned to Australia…
The first day I walked into ACIAR, I understood I was privileged to get a desk and laptop here. Experienced scientists who had important networks and advice to share surrounded me. It took a while to get accustomed to sitting and looking at a screen all day, but accompanying the computer work were amazing opportunities to travel and visit international projects.
During my time with ACIAR, I worked with banana and soil scientists to develop a project proposal for banana production in the Philippines. Originally from sheep/ wheat farm in the Mallee South Australia, my experience in tropical agriculture was somewhat limited. The furthest north I had been was Brisbane and heaven forbid I should know how to grow bananas! However, 14 months later I can now really empathise with Australian and Philippine banana growers and the threat they face from the destructive disease Fusarium Wilt.
The other major task in which I have been involved, is talking with Australian scientists who work on ACIAR projects – discussing the importance of international research work for Australian industry and Australian scientists. This was a highlight of my graduate program. I observed what their job entailed, and could witness their passion and job satisfaction. Ultimately, this is what aided my decision to take the plunge, and embark upon my PhD in agronomy and farming systems – so that I too will have a career doing interesting, rewarding and important work.
Finally, my association with ACIAR enabled me to work with my peers to establish a network called Researchers in Agriculture for International Development (RAID). The network aims to connect, engage and support early to mid career research scientists, and importantly share the knowledge and opportunities available in this sphere.
The RAID core group have been busy! Last week, we launched our new website, had our annual meeting, attended the Crawford Fund Conference and hosted our first official RAID networking event. It has been a productive week, and we are proud that our hard work over the past few months has paid off.
It is also a great note to finish my graduate role with ACIAR, before going on to pursue my PhD. As I walk out the door of ACIAR, my feeling is that the future is bright for young, enthusiastic agriculturalists seeking a satisfying job in agricultural research!