Julia Scicluna

Role: HQP Scholar

Degree: M.Sc.

Project: Evaluation of spore traps to improve disease forecasting in the Holland Marsh

Department: Department of Plant Agriculture (OAC)

What inspired you to pursue your current degree? 

I was inspired to pursue my current degree, which is a Master’s in Plant Agriculture, through taking agriculture courses in my undergraduate degree and working in crop research. I have always been interested in plant agriculture since being exposed to it when I was young, but I didn’t decide to pursue this degree until I realized how much I enjoyed learning about plant pathology and doing research on crop diseases.

What about your research area excites you? 

What excites me most about my research area is working with crops to mitigate yield losses to disease, which can significantly impact both growers and consumers. I think plant diseases are very interesting to study and I love that doing research on them has a positive impact on our supply of food. I am also excited by the progress that has been made in this area and all the methods of disease control being researched that show strong potential performance.

What challenges do you find in your research, and how do you try to overcome them? 

One challenge in my research is that it is largely seasonal, and a lot of important research has to take place over a few short months. This can be challenging because the weather can interfere with the timing of some of the work, which can disrupt other research. To overcome this, I have to plan ahead to make sure there is sufficient time for everything that needs to be accomplished over the summer and check up on my trials often to make sure they are progressing well.

How would you describe your research and the implications of your project? 

I am working on a project to evaluate the effectiveness of four different devices that trap airborne fungal spores of onion diseases in the Holland Marsh. My research involves growing onion trials and quantifying the number of spores captured in different spore traps to see which ones are most accurate at capturing spores. By improving spore trapping, we can improve disease forecasting and will have a better idea when there is disease inoculum present and fungicide applications are needed. The implications of my project are that fungicide use can be reduced and timed more accurately to reduce disease incidence through disease forecasting, which improves yield, decreases costs of production and is environmentally favourable. 

What are three of your favourite activities outside the lab? 

Camping, biking, and skiing

What is one important thing you have learned during the pandemic?

One important thing I have learned from the pandemic is that life doesn’t always go as planned. This has made me realize how important it is to adapt and make new plans, which may end up being better than what I originally had in mind.