Soil scientist Dr Trish Fraser is recognised as a Woman of Influence

Plant & Food Research soil scientist Dr Trish Fraser has received the 2020 Women of Influence Award (Rural Category) in recognition of her three decades of dedication and contributions to the rural sector and rural community. The judges praised her collaborative approach and her rare skill of communicating science to farmers.

Another scientist, Dr Siouxsie Wiles, was named the supreme winner of the 2020 Stuff-Westpac Women of Influence Awards.

The associate professor, a microbiologist at Auckland University, was chosen from a wealth of inspirational women who are excelling on the local and international stage, at the eighth annual awards at Auckland’s Aotea Centre.

She also was presented with the science and health innovation award.

Dr Fraser says the award she won is a great honour and thanks Plant & Food Research, industry collaborators and many farmers for their support.

“I never think of myself as a trailblazer, but in retrospect what I’ve done out of passion and interest did make an impact on the communities that I serve. When I first started as a soil scientist almost 30 years ago, the rural community was extremely dominated by men. I knew I must prove myself through the quality of my work. I attended many field days to communicate my findings and educate farmers on how to improve soil health. Gradually they’ve come around, and they now value and respect me for the work I’ve done.”

Dr Fraser has made significant contributions to soil science and the New Zealand primary industries by working closely with the cropping sector to understand the interactions among soils, crops and the environment. She has influenced the direction of soil science particularly in the field of soil health, invested heavily in the development of other researchers, actively participated in the scientific community through professional societies and led the way in communicating science to farmers and rural professionals.

Dr Fraser has been at the fore of research addressing a wide range of soil-related issues in the cropping sector, much of which has delivered practical knowledge to the farming community to balance important productivity, environmental and system resilience outcomes. She has been part of several collaborative research and industry teams that are responsible for key discoveries in the area of soil health.

Dr Fraser has played a key role in shaping the NZ Society for Soil Science. She has been a member since 1989, served as Secretary for 20 years, Vice President for two, and became the first woman President (2012-2014) and Immediate Past President (2014-2016).

As a Science Team Leader supervising a team of seven at Plant & Food Research, Dr Fraser has mentored many scientists and directly supervised other women technical staff throughout her career. She is passionate about inspiring the next generation’s interest in sustainable production and communicating science directly to farmers and rural professionals and seeing her research applied on farm

The judges said of Siouxsie Wiles’ award her accessible and evidence-led commentary about staying safe during the pandemic helped ease the nation’s anxiety and became the basis for World Health Organisation communications tools.

The Women of Influence Awards, jointly presented by Westpac NZ and Stuff, had 339 nominations across 10 categories this year.

Sources:  Plant and Food Research and Stuff

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