Poster Presentation Science Protecting Plant Health 2017

“Unlocking a Nation of Curious Minds”: a science participatory platform for the next generation of Phytophthora scientists. (#308)

Stanley E Bellgard , Chantal M Probst , Dave Perry , Ross Jacobs , Nick W Waipara , Laura Kelly , Sarah Ratcliffe , Nick Pattison

The “Curious Minds” program is an initiative of the central government of New Zealand, aiming to encourage and enable better engagement with science and technology across all sectors of New Zealand, starting at the school-level. The objective is to partner schools with science-delivery organisations, to develop fun and interesting science projects to which, students are able to bring their unique, and fresh perspectives, to answer real-life questions. Also, this program aims to demonstrate the relevance of science in the students’ everyday lives. “Keeping Kauri Standing” is a national, multi-agency, bicultural response to manage and control Kauri dieback. Part of the approach to active, landscape-level, surveillance of this pathogen, is the baiting of streams to capture the diversity of Phytophthora in waterways, downstream of infested forests. The collaborative project, provided the students with the opportunities to design a stream-based sampling strategy, using study sites which we have previously established in west-Auckland. The students invented a re-usable “bait cassette”, that they designed with material engineers using CAD for Kids and extruded on a 3D-printer. The innovative cassette has a number of advantages over the conventional technology, and enabled the students to carry out the disinfestation, dissecting and plating of the leaf baits to Phytophthora-selective media. The students also successfully recovered a diverse array of Phytophthora, Pythium and Phytopythium species, which they were able to sub-culture from their initial isolations. The vision is to extend the program within NZ to engage schools with access to kauri forests. There is also an opportunity to engage with other schools in Australia (e.g. Melbourne, Perth), South Africa and USA (e.g. Corvallis) to develop an “International Student Surveillance Network”, through which students can share their experiences in forests and the values which they are trying to preserve, in a collaborative, collegiate, multi-ethnic and multi-national environment.