Agriculture scholarship grows student research skills

Two Western Sydney University students will take part in a year-long research project exploring how shearing frequency influences reproductive success in merino sheep, after being awarded prestigious Australian Wool Education Trust Scholarships.

22-year-old Ryan Smith and 20-year-old Dylan Fox, both studying sustainable agriculture and food security, will join a research team led by Dr Edward Narayan from the School of Science and Health. As part of their involvement in the project, the students will have the opportunity to use state-of-the-art non-invasive endocrinology technology to monitor and analyse reproductive and stress hormones in wool using the facilities at the University’s Hawkesbury campus.

Penrith resident Dylan first developed an appreciation for agriculture following visits to his grandparent’s property. He went on to study agriculture at high school and later took part in Western Sydney University’s Exceptional Merit Program, which gave him a 10-week taste of the Bachelor of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security.

“I was fortunate enough to benefit from an excellent agricultural program in high school. Both of my agricultural teachers provided me with numerous opportunities to explore my interests and exercise my talents,” said Dylan.

“I’m interested in becoming an agronomist; someone who is capable of showing producers how they can repair their land to achieve greater yields and a higher financial return.”

The scholarship will allow Dylan to spend time on the farm and in the laboratory and he believes opportunities for undergraduate students to engage in industry research projects are crucial to attracting young people to agriculture.

“Research is a major driver of agricultural innovation which is only possible when academia collaborates with producers. The project I’m involved with has strong links with local sheep producers and will explore how a better understanding of the animal can result in a greater yield of product,” said Dylan.

Hawkesbury resident Ryan, who also received a scholarship, found his own research goals aligned closely with those of the Australian Wool Education Trust. He believes investing in research, including studies into heat stress, is vital for the longevity and success of the industry.

“Without research projects, agricultural production will drop. There will be little knowledge about the factors threatening the production system such as bacterial and fungal infections, stress and ultimately how to maintain biodiversity and positive interactions within a manufactured system,” said Ryan.

Ryan’s interest in agriculture began at a young age and developed into a passion for biosecurity and land management — an area he hopes to work in after graduating.

“Upon learning more about animals I discovered the importance plants had in the animal supply chain and every aspect of our lives. Without agriculture, there is no other way to generate enough food for the population boom of over seven billion people.”

Results from the research project will be available at the end of 2019.


25 June 2019

Ali Sardyga, Media Officer

Photo credit: Sally Tsoutas