WHICH ORGANISATION DO YOU WORK FOR?
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF…
As a PhD student you can either find me at my desk writing my papers/literature review, In the polytunnel on campus working on my experiments or sharing my research at conferences (both UK and internationally).
HOW DOES YOUR ROLE FIT WITHIN SOIL SCIENCE?
My PhD is focused on investigating the effect of biostimulants on soil properties and subsequent crop growth. Biostimulants may provide an alternative to conventional fertiliser without the environmental consequences of current fertiliser use. Biostimulants include microbial (fungi/bacteria) and non-microbial products such as seaweed extracts, humic substances and amino acids. Though, we don’t know much about how biostimulants influence soil properties. Partnered with Sainsbury’s, I‘m researching biostimulant effects on soil as a mechanism for Improving the quality of baby-leaf spinach in terms of yield, nutrient content and shelf life.
WHY IS THIS AN INTERESTING AREA TO WORK IN?
Two things initially come to mind. First, I think that soils are often overlooked when it comes to food production from the consumers perspective. So, I really enjoy sharing my research with the community around me, and Inspiring them to think more about where their food comes from. Second, climate change is at the heart of my research career and so I think this is an excellent time to be producing new research on alternative, sustainable farming practices. I am doing my part to support resilient food systems moving forwards to help make our uncertain future more certain.
WHY SOIL SCIENCE?
My PhD was actually my first step into the world of soil science and I’ve not looked back since. I find the complex interactions of soil fascinating, albeit a challenge when trying to understand the contributions of Individual soil characteristics to healthy soils!
WHAT DID YOU STUDY?
I started out at UEA in Norwich studying an Environmental Science degree where I focused my thesis research on North Atlantic fish distribution in response to rising sea surface temperatures. I then stayed at UEA for an MSc in Climate Change research and ventured into the social sciences where my thesis investigated consumer perceptions of meat consumption.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT YOUR ROLE?
I really enjoy the process of developing experiments to test hypotheses and then using the results of one experiment to help define the next.
WHAT SKILLS, ABILITIES AND PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES ARE ESSENTIAL TO SUCCESS IN YOUR JOB/THIS FIELD?
Determination, self-belief and hard work are essential. A PhD has many peaks and troughs for various reasons but you must remain determined and believe in yourself – you can achieve what you set out to do. I also hate when the words ‘you’re clever’ are used. I always replace this with ‘I work hard’ and I truly believe that is the key.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU OFFER TO YOUNG PEOPLE INTERESTED IN A CAREER IN SOIL SCIENCE?
Learn! There is so much that we know and also don’t know about soils. Get stuck in with whatever soil science knowledge you can get your hands on; a book, a degree/module/course, podcasts, anything.
CAN YOU RECOMMEND OTHER JOURNALS, MAGAZINES OR PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS WHICH WOULD BE HELPFUL FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT?
European Journal of Soil Science, MDS (more broad in food supply chain), BASIS, IFS
IF YOU COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, WOULD YOU CHOOSE THE SAME PATH FOR YOURSELF?
Absolutely. I’m in the early stages of my career but still, I really value the path I have chosen. At each stage, I chose to do something I enjoy – that’s important.
TELL US ONE THING ABOUT YOURSELF THAT NOT MANY PEOPLE KNOW
I jumped off the world’s highest bungy bridge, which was Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa!
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE RELATING TO YOUR WORK IN SOIL SCIENCE?
A network I have recently joined in with is ‘Women in Food and Farming’. The network is slightly broader than soil science specifically but many attendees have careers in soil science and agronomy. It has been really interesting, inspiring and useful to hear about the careers in this sphere.