Discovering why ladybirds cluster in huge numbers near Hydro Tasmania energy infrastructure, threatening to block vital components, will hopefully lead to integrated pest management solutions for the state’s farmers.

In 2010 University of Tasmania undergraduate student Gemma Sherwin was awarded a $4000 a year Beef Industry Trust scholarship to assist with the cost of her agricultural science studies.

The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association administers the trust on behalf of the beef industry. The scholarships support students in agricultural sciences to encourage interest and involvement in this important rural sector.

Gemma is about to enter the fourth year of an honours degree that began with an interest in insects and entomology and included time working on controls for chrysomelid beetles in eucalypt plantations.

Now she is concentrating on ladybirds and, among other things, the pheromones that may contribute to them clustering or aggregating.

“They like to touch each other and I want to know why,” she says.

Gemma says that, depending on the quality of her honours thesis, she would like to go on to a postgraduate degree involving biocontrols. She would like a career in integrated pest management systems in agriculture, especially systems that reduce the amount of chemicals used.

Gemma is a city girl, having been educated at Ogilvie High and Elizabeth College. She took a gap year in 2008 before embarking on her degree but in her first year she had no outside income. In her second year she won the Beef Industry Trust scholarship.

“I had found it very difficult. The Beef Trust scholarship has made the world of difference,” she said. “I am averaging distinctions in all my subjects.”
Tasmanian Farmers & Graziers Association