11 December 2007

UQ Faculty of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Veterinary Science (NRAVS) students, Robyn Cave and Lee Hickey, have reaped rewards for academic excellence in agricultural studies, receiving the Bryan Memorial and Bell medals respectively.

The medals, awarded by the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology (AIAST), celebrate the lives and achievements of two of the nation’s most influential agriculturists, Dr Wilf Bryan and Arthur Bell.

Students completing an honours program after completing a three-year degree are eligible to apply for the Bryan Memorial Medal.

Ms Cave completed a Bachelor of Applied Science specialising in horticulture before going on to complete a research project examining the time taken to get a plant to flower and enhancing flowering using temperature, vernalisation (promoting flowering by exposure to cold), plant age, and day length.

Supervised by Dr Margaret Johnston, from the University’s Centre for Native Floriculture (CNF), Ms Cave’s research has potential commercial application in allowing producers to shorten the time from seedling to flowering.

It would also enable producers to control flowering in the Brunonia and Calandrinia species – both potential new native cut-flower species and the focus of Ms Cave’s studies.

Bryan Memorial Medal judges also highly commended the quality work of Ian McDonald, whose research investigated the management of Eastern Grey Kangaroo populations.

Mr Hickey was awarded the Bell Medal for his fourth-year Bachelor of Agricultural Science honours project entitled “Rapid Screening for Pre-Harvest Sprouting Resistance in Wheat”.

Judges were impressed by the work of Emily Litzow, who was also a finalist for the Bell award. Ms Litzow researched “In vitro study of the forage quality of psyllid-resistant leucaena hybrid breeding lines” looking at the use of leucaena as a source of high-protein forage during critical dry production periods.

Established by the Queensland Branch of the AIAST in 1976, the Bryan Memorial Medal is named in honour of Dr W. W. (Wilf) Bryan who retired from the CSIRO Division of Tropical Agronomy in 1972 after a prestigious career in plant breeding and pasture agronomy. Dr Bryan is also remembered for his work breeding hybrid maize varieties during his time on staff at the Queensland Agricultural College (predecessor organisation of today’s Gatton Campus).

The Bell Medal is named in honour of Arthur F. Bell, the first qualified scientist to hold the position of Under-Secretary of the then State Department of Agriculture and Stock (now DPI&F). Mr Bell was previously a pathologist and Director of the Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations. The AIAST created the award in 1958 following Mr Bell’s death.

The Bell and Bryan Memorial Medals are open to honours degree students from the St Lucia and Gatton campuses who meet the eligibility criteria. The awards are administered and judged by member scientists of the AIAST, Queensland Division, and are based on the quality of written theses and a verbal presentation made by the students.

Dr Colin Birch, AIAST Queensland Branch President and NRAVS Director of Studies, said the history behind the awards was as important today as when the medals were first presented.

“Agricultural research in Queensland has a long and proud history and these medals honour two of the major contributors of their time and encourage future research leaders,” he said.

Past Bell and Bryan Memorial medallists have been awarded for excellence in many areas including economic analysis of land management, native seed dormancy on rehabilitated mine sites, wastewater treatment and the breeding of “assassin” bugs.

“The diversity of projects awarded in previous years serves to highlight the vast potential of work being conducted by these students for the benefit of the agricultural and associated industries,” Dr Birch said.

Media inquiries: Susanne Schick, Marketing Coordinator, Faculty of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Veterinary Science and Gatton Campus (telephone 07 5460 1229 or 0409 265 587).