“I didn’t grow up on a farm myself, but I grew up beside my Grandad's and uncle’s farm in Castledermot, Co. Kildare.” Louise McNamara explained.
“My family is originally from Co. Clare where they were dairy farmers, later becoming drystock farmers so farming is a part of our family’s background.” She added.
From growing up around farming, Louise has always been very interested in nature and agriculture; she had a desire to incorporate working outdoors into whatever career she pursued.
She graduated from Maynooth University with a BSc in Biological Sciences in 2012; she then completed a PhD in Integrated Pest Management of the forestry pest - the large pine weevil - in 2016.
Dr. Louise moved to fill her current position - a Research Officer in Teagasc’s Crop Science Department at Oak Park, Co. Carlow - in July 2016.
Teagasc is the national body providing integrated research, advisory and training services to the agriculture and food industry and rural communities.
The overarching goal of the Crop Science Department is to support the Irish tillage sector by delivering through to practise, science-led solutions that underpin both the profitability and environmental sustainability of cropping systems.
The Kildare native is responsible for developing and running the crop pest control programme; she also develops sustainable pest control solutions that are robust and useable for Irish farmers and growers.
Her research interests include integrated pest management of insect pests with a focus primarily on arable crops.Her research also extends to forestry and horticulture pests - the best use of insecticides, insecticide resistance, biological pest control, cultural control and biodiversity in an arable farm landscape.
Dr. Louise secures funding to conduct her work, designs and carries out research, supervises postgraduate and postdoctoral students, and disseminate findings to farmers/growers, researchers and the public.
“There is no typical day as my work is a combination of indoor and outdoor work. Depending on the time of the year, I could be out planting or harvesting trials, assessing or treating trials in the field or monitoring for insects.”
“I could be in the lab testing plants for disease or insects for resistance to chemicals or in my office writing grants, papers, planning projects or meeting with my students”
“I could be travelling around the country to do talks for farmers or I could be travelling outside of Ireland to conferences or meetings.
Dr. Louise said there is a great sense of community and teamwork at Teagasc Oak Park, which is an enjoyable aspect of her job.
She likes the variety of the role and the diverse nature of the subject she studies, revealing that mixing management with lab and field work makes the position more challenging but interesting.
“Entomology is the study of insects; more than one million different species of insect have been described to date.”
"Entomology is crucial to our understanding of human disease, agriculture, evolution, ecology and biodiversity, she added.
“It is extremely rewarding to conduct research that has a real-life application and provides a service to Irish farmers and supports the sustainability of a hugely important industry.”
Women in Ag
Dr. Louise believes it is “a great time” to be a woman in scientific research, including Ag research.“There are many opportunities at the moment for funding and training, as well as many women-centred initiatives to encourage and empower them.”
“From my time in the agri sector so far, I haven’t been treated differently and I hugely enjoy working in this sector.”
She feels being female was never an issue for her when working in forestry or tillage research. “It’s been a very positive experience. I’ve worked with many impressive female Agri researchers, both at Teagasc and previously including my PhD supervisor.”
“Women in agriculture should be celebrated as they are crucial to the industry and the running of farms all over the country.” She added.
Satisfied in her current role with Teagasc, Dr. McNamara intends to focus on building her research programme and team.
“There is a huge range of pests and challenges in pest control to keep my work varied and challenging for many years to come!” She said.
“I love the variety of working in the ag industry - every day is different and brings different challenges so I’m always learning.”
“Engaging with farmers on a daily basis and developing real-world solutions makes the work I do feel very rewarding.”
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