Delivering pollen by design
Summer is known for hard-working insects, but tertiary student Michael Pawley was busy spending his finding better ways to ease their burden.
Michael was a participant of Plant & Food Research’s Summer Studentship programme. Based at the science company’s Ruakura campus, he was a member of a project team that is exploring ways to improve the targeted spraying of pollen to artificially pollinate flowers.
“The goal of the project is to develop and test automated artificial pollination methods for kiwifruit flowers,” says Michael.
“The field work involved assembling and testing pollen delivery systems, and in the lab I used specialised methods for counting pollen grains on the dissected stigma of kiwifruit flowers.
“I then analysed the data and used this information to modify the design of the pollen delivery systems.”
Artificial pollination methods support the work of natural pollinators, such as honey bees and other insects, but current methods for applying pollen can be inefficient.
“The project could prove beneficial for the sustainable production of kiwifruit and much of the technology could provide a foundation for applications elsewhere in horticulture,” says Michael.
Plant & Food Research’s Summer Studentship programme is designed to give industry experience to high-calibre tertiary students who may be considering a career as a scientist or industry professional. It allows them to work on real research projects alongside world-recognised scientists.
Michael is completing a Bachelor of Biomedical Engineering (Honours) degree at the University of Auckland.
“The Summer Studentship has been extremely useful. Although the project contained no medical dimension, many of the things I have learnt through my studies were applicable,” says Michael.
“I’m interested in experimental design and eager to contribute to the solution of real-world problems. The opportunity to work at Plant & Food Research has allowed me to gain experience in problem solving techniques in an industry setting and given me the opportunity to network with other scientists and engineers.”