Valedictorian sees sustainable agriculture as important to our food security
Addressing food security in the face of climate change is an important goal for Shona Wood who graduates with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours) on July 24 and is Valedictorian at that ceremony.
“During my travels I’ve seen firsthand the necessity of crop adaptation and I would like to be a part of it,” Shona said.
Shona has made a career transition from being a chef to an agricultural scientist, with a common interest in food in both careers.
Shona came to UQ as a mature age student, attracted by its reputation for great research in agriculture. UQ is ranked number 15 in agriculture research worldwide.
After travelling for seven years, including in Mongolia and South East Asia, chef Shona understood how pressing the issue of food was for many communities.
She traded in the kitchen for the laboratory, working to solve food security problems in the face of climate change – using crop modelling to know what to plant where and, working with sorghum and wheat to improve the nutritional value for communities low on food resources.
“I see agriculture as an important industry now and into the future as demand for food increases with a rapidly expanding population,” Shona said.
“However, as it utilises natural resources and can greatly affect the world around it, agriculture can often have detrimental effects. I felt that instead of criticising agricultural practices, I should become involved and try and change it for the better.”
Even before receiving her award, Shona has secured a job as a research technician with CSIRO Gatton, and is studying traits of wheat crop modelling.
She was looking to get out of the kitchen, and work outside, and now has the best of both worlds, with laboratory and field work combined. During her Agricultural Science studies, Shona was able to undertake an internship with CSIRO, which has been helpful in future employment.
Internships, which are an important component of UQ programs, expose students not only to the technical aspects of potential future careers, but also give a chance to network with potential employers and stay abreast of current issues.
Along the way, Shona has collected a string of academics awards including the Slade Scholarship, Downing Brothers Bursary, the Ben Brown Award for Agricultural Science, the William Woolcock Memorial Prize, the Dr Mohamad Asghar Prize and the Robert Philp scholarship.
She has also undertaken research work with a UQ academics on leucaena, when she was able to sit in a field for a week and observe which leucaena plants cattle preferred. She also worked on another fodder crop, transgenic sorghum.
“I’m glad to say that I’ve had so many great teachers and lecturers throughout my degree. A great university teacher/lecturer needs to be able to engage with students, be enthusiastic and clearly articulate the concepts they are trying to teach,” Shona said.
“I also had the opportunity to visit South Africa as a course in my degree. It was great opportunity to meet students from other degrees and other countries.
“I feel that is it very important to be able to continually adapt and learn, especially in such a rapidly- evolving workplace.
“However, thankfully I believe that attending university and taking part in the variety of courses that I have, I have learnt the skills necessary to do this. “
After her two year contract with CSIRO working on collecting data for crop modelling in wheat, Shona’s plan is to commence a PhD afterwards in this field.