Lael WalshResearch Associate
I am an ecological and biological scientist passionate about research that addresses food and sustainability challenges. I am a member of the association of applied biologists. I have worked in academia and the private sector and with several international organisations such as IUCN and UNEP. I have a range of research interests in science including invasive plant management, biological control, pesticide resistance, crop protection, entomology and food systems. I am always looking for opportunities for interdisciplinary science which combine my skills in science, education and business.
Starting my research career in the Ecological Engineering and Phytotechnology Programme at the University of Witwatersrand I investigated sustainable mine closure options, using phytoremediation, in the Witwatersrand Basin mining belt of South Africa and received research funding through THRIP and AngloGold Ashanti Limited.
Moving on I worked at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for several years and was engaged in research and advocacy around sustainable land management and mining across East and Southern Africa. In particular my programme of research focused on activities in marginal dryland areas and with marginalised communities. In the role of senior programme manager I was responsible for developing a Sustainable Biodiversity Management System in partnership with a private sector mining company Vedanta Zinc International in the sensitive Namaqualand ecosystem. As an advisor to the agriculture departments in the governments of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, I led targeted research on invasive woody plant species (Genus Tamarix and Genus Prosopis) and co-authored the first invasive species strategy for the Government of Botswana with Dr Geoffrey Howard, Global invasive species coordinator for IUCN at the time. To raise awareness of how the spread of invasive woody species are affecting sustainable land management in dryland areas, I co-hosted a side event at the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Conference of Parties in Namibia in 2013.
Like my Walsh namesake, I was thrilled to be awarded a 4-year Walsh fellowship at Teagasc (The Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority) to undertake my doctorate (registered at University College Dublin) investigating xenobiotic resistance in cereal crop pests in the lab of Dr Michael Gaffney at Teagasc. During my fellowship funded through a STIMULUS grant from the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, I worked closely with Irish tillage growers conducting surveys of grower husbandry practise and monitoring insecticide resistance. My research had a significant molecular biology component using genomic and proteomic approaches to characterise resistance. During this time I worked with researchers in the areas of toxicology, genomics and proteomics, undertaking research visits to Rothamsted Research, to the James Hutton Institute and to Maynooth University. My research has characterised mechanisms of resistance in aphid pests and made new discoveries in aphid reproductive biology, some of which are still in the process of being published.
I am now delighted to be working as a postdoctoral research associate with Dr Jess Davies researching urban food system resilience on the Rurban Revolution project. This important work aims to characterise the UK’s urban agriculture potential and understand how to build resilience in urban food systems. Research like this is timely and important, particularly as the latest IPCC special report highlights that "urban and peri-urban food production mitigates impacts to people, land and climate in a warming world".
PhD (Health and Agricultural Science)
Professional certificate in Bioinformatics
MSc (International Management and Global Business)
PGCE (Biology & Mathematics)
MSc (Environmental Science)
BSc (Ecological Science)
Mechanisms of insecticide resistance in crop pests
Insecticide resistance in the grain aphid, in Irish crops
Managing grain aphid resistance in the absence of pesticides