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‘Blue sky research’ merges with practical solutions to combat fruit fly

The 7th Australian Biology of Tephritid Fruit Flies Conference was held in May 2019 in Shepparton Victoria and brought together researchers, scholars and industry leads from across Australia and further afield.

The conference theme, Blue Sky Applied, connected ‘blue sky research’ with practical solutions, for the benefit of Australian Horticulture. In addition to profiling the latest in fruit fly research, the event provided a conduit between national research, the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT Plus Consortium) and Fruit Fly Area Wide Management.

The GMV Fruit Fly Area Wide Management Project, proudly hosted the national event which was aptly held in the pome fruit capital of Australia. Over the course of two action-packed days, the conference featured key research, findings and emerging opportunities in the management and control of the pest.

A range of presentations informed delegates on the latest progress and outcomes in fruit fly research and the practical implications involved for Australian horticulture.

Plenary speaker Dr Mark Schutze was one of the many featured speakers to present to the 150 strong contingent.

PLENARY SPEAKER – DR MARK SCHUTZE

Senior Entomologist, Biosecurity Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Mark cut his ‘tephritid teeth’ during his honours year (2000) at University of Queensland (UQ), where he used a combination of morphological and molecular characters to resolve the phylogenetics of the antlered flies (Phytalmia) of North Queensland and Papua New Guinea. Following this, he worked at the Centre for Identification and Diagnostics of Insect Pests and Weeds (UQ), running routine population genetic screening of Qfly,) before taking on a PhD with Prof. Tony Clarke at Queensland University of Technology.

Here he worked on (not a fruit fly), but the biogeography and ecological variability of the eucalyptus tortoise beetle, Paropsis atomaria. After completing his PhD, Mark returned as post-doc with Tony Clarke working on the taxonomic resolution of key pest species from the Oriental fruit fly complex, resulting in the synonymisation of Bactrocera papayae and B. invadens with the Oriental fruit fly B. dorsalis; after which he undertook a lecturing role at QUT teaching under- and postgraduates until early 2018.

Mark has enjoyed research and collaborative projects with the UN/FAO International Atomic Energy Agency (Seibersdorf/ Vienna, Austria), the USDA/Smithsonian Institution (Washington D.C., USA), Binatang Research Centre (Madang, PNG), and the Royal Museum for Central Africa (Tervuren, Belgium); co/authored over 35 journal articles and a couple of book chapters (mostly on tephritids of course!), and delivered training courses on geometric morphometrics and general fruit fly taxonomy and diagnostics, in Asia and Europe. Now a Senior Entomologist with Biosecurity Queensland (QDAF), Mark is responsible for curating the department’s insect collection (which holds arguably the world’s largest collection of dacine tephritids!) and providing diagnostic expertise primarily on fruit flies, scale insects, aphids, and thrips to support Queensland’s agricultural industry and biosecurity.

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