Monday, 12 October 2015

The International Mango Symposium – a wonderful networking experience

International scientific meetings are an important part of the ‘impact pathway’ for ACIAR projects, providing project teams a forum for sharing their results with other researchers and industry partners. Perhaps even more importantly, however, such meetings provide a tremendous opportunity for building the capacity of project researchers. Through the formal presentations, they hear about the latest research results from other countries; during the tea breaks and meal times, they have the opportunity to exchange ideas informally with global leaders in their research area; and through field visits to farms and industry partners, they encounter local best practice and gain practical ideas to try out in industry development in their own countries.

Dr Randy Ploetz gives the plenary address on mango disease. Source: Richard Markham

The XIth International Mango Symposium in Darwin, from 29th September to 3rd October 2015, provided a particularly valuable opportunity of this kind. ACIAR was therefore proud to support the event both through a direct grant from its Training Committee’s ‘Events Funding’ facility and by encouraging ACIAR projects to support participation by their team members. The value of the event for capacity building purposes was further enhanced by a series of Master Classes organised ahead of the Symposium and co-supported by the Crawford Fund.

Networking at the ACIAR booth. Source: David Hall

One Symposium participant was Mereia Fong-Lomavatu from Fiji. She is currently studying for a PhD at University of the Sunshine Coast under a John Allwright Fellowship and in due course will take her new skills and experiences back to Fiji to contribute to mango industry development, under the auspices of project HORT/2014/077 Enhanced fruit production and postharvest handling systems for Fiji, Samoa and Tonga (scheduled to start in January 2016). This is Mereia’s account of her experience:

“At this year’s 11th International Mango Symposium in Darwin, I am one of 200 participants from  26 countries. Among several interesting topics on offer, my own focus is on Plant Pathology – in particular postharvest diseases of mango. Mango being a new commodity for me, information from this meeting is quite overwhelming. Listening and talking to scientists who have long experience with this crop has given me a better understanding to guide my research.

Mereia meets Dr Randy Ploetz. Credit: David Hall

On Sunday, I attended the Plant Pathology Masterclass where I met Dr Randy Ploetz from the University of Florida. During my literature review I read and cited a number of his mango disease papers and meeting him in person was an honour. He has even offered to assist me in solving the mango disease problems in Fiji, if the opportunity arises. I also met other plant pathologists from Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, to name a few who have offered to assist me in my research. Wow! Networking is awesome!

On Friday, we will get to visit a few mango orchards around Darwin, and on Saturday some even further away, in Katherine. That’s something to look forward to as we may get to taste some Australian mangoes that are already in season!

Mereia presents her poster at the Symposium. Source: Richard Markham

Finally, thank you to ACIAR for your support that has enabled me to be here! This symposium has come in at exactly the right time to prepare me for my PhD field work which I shall start back home in Fiji, in November. And I hope that I will be able to come back to the next International Mango Symposium to present my research findings.”

By Richard Markham (ACIAR RPM for Horticulture) and Mereia Fong-Lomavatu (University of the Sunshine Coast)

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