Where are they now? – Ronny Groenteman

NZPPS have been awarding the Dan Watkins Scholarship in Weed Science since 2006.

Dan Watkins was a leading figure in the early weed science research arena within New Zealand. He was a founder of the New Zealand Weeds Conference (forerunner of the New Zealand Plant Protection Society), a member of the New Zealand National Research Council and was involved with other scientific bodies. This scholarship has been set up in memory of Dan Watkins and to recognise his contribution to weed science within New Zealand.

Dr Ronny Groenteman received the Dan Watkins Scholarship in Weed Science in 2007

Measuring nodding thistle rosette to study response to herbivory by crown-root weevil

“When I received the Dan Watkins Scholarship in Weed Science in 2007 I was at the final stages of my PhD on interactions between the three biocontrol agents of nodding thistle, Carduus nutans.

After completing my PhD I was fortunate to gain employment in my area of interest, weed biocontrol, at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research. I started as a post-doctoral fellow, then junior scientist, and now I am a research leader. My group at Manaaki Whenua works on applied weed biocontrol as well as on fundamental science to improve safety and effectiveness of biocontrol practices. As the cycles go, I am now supervising a PhD student working on nodding thistle biocontrol. She uses the same study system to ask questions about evolutionary trajectories under herbivory pressure.

Over the years I also enjoyed the opportunities to serve on professional societies such as the Entomological Society of New Zealand, New Zealand Biosecurity Institute, the Asia-Pacific Section of the International Organisation for Biological Control (IOBC), and IOBC-Global, where I am currently on the last year of my term as Secretary-General.

Receiving the Dan Watkins Scholarship was a welcome financial boost to my PhD project, and not least a boost to my confidence and believe in myself. The scholarship also provided exposure within NZPPS, and opportunities to network. I have since encouraged several students to apply for this scholarship and to join NZPPS. The Society has much to offer to students and early career scientists and provides a supporting environment to grow.”

Releasing newly-introduced biocontrol agents against horehound, Marrubium vulgare