Position: Science Team Leader, Plant & Food Research, Lincoln.
Field: Soil science
Dr Trish Fraser is a senior soil scientist at Plant & Food Research, Lincoln. She has a special interest in soil biology (earthworms in particular!) and soil management practices. Trish grew up on a mixed cropping farm in the north of Scotland and had her first soil sampling experience at the age of 10 when her Dad asked her to go and sample a paddock for him. She has been fine-tuning her techniques ever since!
Trish completed a BSc with joint honours in plant and soil science at Aberdeen University in Scotland. Keen for an overseas adventure and inspired by a travelling uncle and a university lecturer who had both spent time in New Zealand, Trish accepted a PhD scholarship at Lincoln University. Trish completed her PhD in about 3.5 years and was offered a temporary 6-month job at Crop & Food Research (now Plant & Food Research) at Lincoln. This turned into a permanent job, and Trish has been working there and living in New Zealand ever since.
Trish’s more recent research interests focus on assessing the impacts of tillage on soil organic matter dynamics and the implications for soil fauna and nitrate leaching. She conducts novel research projects that help to increase our understanding of soil processes. These experiments involve consulting with other scientists and specialists and often result in even more questions that need answering! She particularly enjoys getting out and talking to farmers, discussing with them the practical soil management issues that they face and then trying to find ways to assist them to improve their on-farm management.
They say that variety is the spice of life, and there is plenty of variety in scientific research. As you try to solve problems, increase understanding of a given field of research and then convey any useful information that you have discovered, there is never a dull moment.
In 2016 Trish was involved in an Unlocking Curious Minds project The science of the spud, that took students on a scientific journey in sustainable production, crop protection, breeding and biotechnology, and food and nutrition, all with the humble potato holding centre stage.
Trish still has a personal connection to farming, as she and her husband own a 20-hectare hobby farm where they breed Simmental-cross calves. Trish also really enjoys tennis, bike-riding and swimming with her family, and one of their favourite holidays is fishing in the Marlborough Sounds.
In 2020 Trish 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, watch this video interview with Trish on YouTube.
Scientific investigations can run for a few months to a few decades. They can be small and tightly controlled or much larger studies involving real-world conditions. Observation is crucial to a scientist’s work and observation comes in many forms. Both of these articles feature Trish and Dr Nicole Schon, another soil scientist.
This article is based on information current in 2012 and updated in 2020.