Protecting New Zealand's plants

10 August 2018

Anastazia Docherty doing fieldwork during her work placement with AgResearch.

New Zealand’s lack of plant biodiversity will be in the spotlight next week at the New Zealand Plant Protection Conference. Bachelor of Science (Technology) student Anastazia Docherty will head to Nelson to present her research on the topic, alongside her colleagues from AgResearch.

As part of her degree, Anastazia has been working with AgResearch to examine the country’s lack of plant biodiversity, insects and predators, which may increase the likelihood pest outbreaks. Work placements are a key part of the Waikato science programme, and Anastazia says while she knew little about insect identification before joining AgResearch, she’s enjoyed the challenge.

“The team at AgResearch are really welcoming and willing to help,” Anastazia says. “It was a great work environment and I’d learnt so much by the end of my placement.”

Her name was published on the final research paper, which led to an invitation to the New Zealand Plant Protection Conference. It’s New Zealand’s biggest plant protection event, and a great opportunity for Anastazia to network with other scientists.

“The conference will include lots of presentations about plant pests – which is exactly what I want to be doing.”

“One of the reasons I chose Waikato was because it was the only university that offered the real- world placements,” she says. “You get university credits, experience in your industry, and you get paid – it’s like your degree is paying for itself!”

It’s hard to believe, but Anastazia didn’t like biology in high school. She says her interest developed through doing biological sciences as an elective at university. She loved seeing the real-life implications of biology in labs, and she’s never looked back.

She says she can’t wait to meet other scientists at the conference, and to find out about other opportunities in the industry.

“In ten years, I see myself putting together my own projects and research. I’d like to be working at a place like AgResearch, where you can see the practical implications of your work.”