Media stints – Insect resilience and pest management

I wouldn’t say I’m shy, but I do get nervous when talking in front of a large group of people. The usual things cross my mind, worried I’ll get a tough question, that I’ll forget all these things I study and know, that I may even phrase something incorrectly and offend someone. Mostly, I worry about looking like an idiot. But, more important to me than avoiding looking like an idiot, is the outreach itself. I am passionate about getting science out there, about translating my work, the work of those around me, into something relatable, doing away with all the jargon that you need to publish and making the science accessible.

Recently, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few radio interviews as well as invited talks. I can’t speak highly enough of those who have interviewed me and those who have hosted my self indulgent chats about the science I love so dearly. Two that you can follow up on, if you’re so interested, are with Richard Glover on ABC 702 Drive. Richard is a really great interviewer, helping you to feel instantly relaxed and confident. I have had two stints as part of Self Improvement Wednesdays (SIW), a short segment aimed at learning something new, and loved every minute of it.

My first SIW segment came on the heels of a review Tanya Latty and I published in March of this year. Surprisingly, this review was really well received, and the media ran with it. Trying to get resilience in social insect infrastructure systems to sound a bit more interesting to a wider audience felt daunting at first, but then I realised it’s actually incredibly relatable. When we break social insect systems down we start to pinpoint factors that contribute to the colony resilience. In a sense, it’s similar to looking at the components that make up a computer network, or the neurons in our brain. On their own, these components or neurons can’t really achieve much, and neither can a single ant, but when we take these things together we start to see complex emergent behaviours, and these behaviours add to the resilience of an insect colony. For more detail, click on the linked radio interview above, or the article I wrote for The Conversation.

The second SIW segment was a little closer to home. I grew up on a farm about 2 hours west of Bourke, so literally, I am from the Back o’ Bourke. Growing up on this farm I saw many changes in practices and alternative approaches to pest management that didn’t necessarily rely on the chemicals and pesticides that are so readily available to farmers. My second interview was an attempt to turn the buzz word phrase “Integrated Pest Management” (IPM) into what it really is – alternative methods of pest control that do not rely heavily on chemical usage. I thoroughly enjoyed this segment and I am passionate about this topic. I’ve seen how our environment is changing, how our land management practices are changing, and I think that having that rural background I have been afforded an extra glimpse into the importance of the uptake of IPM nationally and world wide, but also the costs that our farmers will incur with these changes. It’s a tough predicament, that’s for sure, but I feel we can make a difference by working together. For more detail, click on the linked radio interview above. I’d be grateful for any feedback, so comment or flick me an email, we can only learn through feedback.

The bottom line is that I love communicating science. I like to think I am pretty good at it and I believe that comes from my passion for it. I don’t want there to be a disconnect between what’s going on in the labs and what’s happening on the streets and thus hope to continue my media stints for a long time to come.


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