02 June 2011

Voice Hears His Calling – An Interview with David Voice, Graduate of Lincoln University

David Voice is an entomological scientist at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Christchurch, New Zealand; he completed a Master of Applied Science under the supervision of Bruce Chapman at Lincoln University in 2000. His thesis was done through the entomology department on insecticide resistance in offspring of crossed diamond backed moths. Juliane Diamond, ECOL 608 student, interviewed him to get his opinion on the program and the relevance it had to his career.
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Why did you decide to pursue the degree?
Before beginning the degree, while working for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in quarantine, on the border, I would find something suspicious and have to send it to the lab. That is where I took an interest in what I was finding. I began to be able to do some basic identification and save the trip to the lab. It is from that initial interest that I decided to pursue a science degree program.


David Voice and Tommy
Photo by Juli Diamond

What does your job now entail?
My title is Scientist, in the Entomology department of the Plant Health and Environment Laboratory at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Primarily I work as a lab coordinator. I do diagnostics and project work on high impact species that would cause harm to the environment in New Zealand if they arrived.

I practice diagnostic entomology, which is the study and identification of insects, and that requires me to spend some time behind a microscope. I also do surveillance of fruit fly trends and eradication procedures. I recognize research opportunities and design experiments.

How do you feel Lincoln University did at preparing you for this career and what courses were most useful to you?
I feel Lincoln prepared me well because in this field you have to learn the basics about taxonomy, and you need to understand where the creature lies in the greater animal kingdom, as well as the relationship between species and how to ensure accuracy in identification.

Therefore, the courses I took in taxonomy, systematics and pest management were most beneficial to what I was doing. The program itself allowed me to customise my studies towards my career, and courses were available that strengthened my knowledge of the field. I feel Lincoln had excellent lecturers and staff.

What is your impression of your time at Lincoln University and the entomology department?
I thought Lincoln was great, I really enjoyed it. I felt a bit awkward at first - being a senior student, but they were great and treated me like a peer. At that time there was a full entomology department and there were a lot of people working on different insect-related research. I felt the work being done was really comprehensive. I also was very motivated because I could see how I could apply what I was learning directly to my job.

What advice do you have for current or prospective students regarding how to make the most of their study at Lincoln University?
I’d like to say that biosecurity is a highly significant field that New Zealand needs to take great heed of, because we still haven’t seen the worst invasive species. I think there are a lot of opportunities in the biosecurity sector, including policy and laboratory work. There is a lot at stake and we need more individuals to come out of university knowing about these issues who can make good policy and protect New Zealand from exotic pests and disease.

Any other comments?
I’d like to close saying that studying entomology gives you a wonderful understanding of how nature operates. There is a lot going on in the environment and there should be a balance, and when that gets disturbed things can go wrong. That is often how pests emerge and by knowing and understanding the system we will be able to prevent that from happening.

David Voice felt very positive about his experience studying entomology at Lincoln University, are you interested in learning more about the program? Contact John Marris, Curator of the Entomology Research Museum for more information.

This article was prepared by postgraduate student Juliane Diamond as part of the ECOL 608 Research Methods in Ecology course.

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