Our People

Meet our bright minds and hear what they have to say about their journeys at AgResearch so far.

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Research Technician - Farm Systems & Environment

Rose Greenfield

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Senior Research Scientist - Food & Bio-based Products

Dr Santanu Deb-Choudhury

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Senior Scientist - Forage Science

Shirley Nichols

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Senior Scientist - Food & Bio-based Products

Dr Marlon M. Reis

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Science Team Leader - Animal Science

David Pacheco

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Organisational Talent & Development Manager

Yvette Keys

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PhD Student – Animal Science

Sarah Appleby

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Research Technician - Forage Science

Suliana Teasdale

Research Technician – Farm Systems & Environment

Rose Greenfield

Tell us a little bit about why you joined AgResearch and what you do.
As part of my BSc (tech), I did a work placement in the Animal Welfare group looking at the welfare of broiler chickens. Whilst I was a student here, I worked partly with the Farm Systems and Environment team on some pasture trials. When my student placement finished, I went back to university to finish my degree and because I enjoyed working at AgResearch, I was pleased to secure a job here permanently. I’m currently a Research Technician in the Animal Welfare team though the majority of my work is in the Farm Systems and Environment team working on hill country and endophyte work.

Tell us about an interesting or exciting project or challenge you’ve been directly involved in as a result of working at AgResearch.
I am involved in a couple of endophyte trials which have given some interesting and thought provoking results. This has led to talks of a new trial site being developed for us to continue the investigation of endophyte effects.

What do you enjoy most about working at AgResearch?
The people I work with are really nice and are a joy to work with. The work I do is variable especially as I work within two teams.

What’s on the horizon for you, or what’s the next cool opportunity for you at AgResearch?
I have just had my Curiosity Fund application accepted which will be assessing the accuracy of new technology, where I will be the project manager working through the milestones, budgets and learning heaps along the way.

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Micro pipetting

Senior Research Scientist – Food & Bio-based Products

Dr Santanu Deb Choudhury

Tell us a little bit about why you joined AgResearch and what you do.
I joined AgResearch because of the reputation the organisation has in science excellence. AgResearch contributes in a major way to agricultural science by creating value for the pastoral sector of New Zealand. To be part of cutting edge science that underpins the agri-food and technology value chain is an exciting career opportunity for me.

I am a Senior Scientist in the Proteins & Biomaterials team and my work mostly comprises studying the nature of proteins, broadly defined as proteomics. My research projects mainly involve studying protein-protein interactions, protein modifications and function, and protein localisation studies in the biochemical or biological context.

Tell us about an interesting or exciting project or challenge you’ve been directly involved in as a result of working at AgResearch.
One of the projects I am excited about is the strategically funded ‘Unlocking Value from the Whole Carcass: High-value Ingredients with Proven Functionality’ project. Within this project we aim to maximise the value of New Zealand red meat through transformational research to utilise every part of the carcass.

What do you enjoy most about working at AgResearch?
For me, the excitement of working at AgResearch is the opportunity I get to work on a wide variety of projects. These projects range from functionalising proteins for enhanced performance to the reduction of UV-induced photoyellowing in wool proteins to elucidation of bioactives in meat hydrolysates that can have health-promoting properties.  At AgResearch, I’m always encouraged to think outside the square in a very supportive environment that nurtures innovation.

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Senior Scientist – Forage Science

Shirley Nichols

Tell us a little bit about why you joined AgResearch and what you do.
Joining AgResearch was a bit of an accident. I studied Resources and Environmental Planning and Freshwater Ecology at the University of Waikato – nothing to do with agriculture and very little plant science. I came for an interview for some temporary technical work and 21 years and a PhD in plant science later, I’m still here! I am now a senior scientist in the Forage Science group, working mainly on identifying new plant material and traits to improve the performance of our forage species. In particular, I study plant root systems, nutrient use efficiency, and drought.

Tell us about an interesting or exciting project or challenge you’ve been directly involved in as a result of working at AgResearch.
I work with a great team creating and studying white clover interspecific hybrids. We’ve crossed white clover, which is a major pasture species, with closely related wild species to try and improve some of the traits that limit its resistance to drought and growth under poor soil fertility – particularly phosphorus. These are issues that are becoming more and more important and it’s exciting to think we might be able to make some big changes to the way that white clover can cope with them. For pasture species, it’s a very different way of approaching breeding and there is only one other research group in the world doing this with white clover.

What do you enjoy most about working at AgResearch?
Knowing that the work we are doing can potentially make a big difference to farmers, and therefore the economy of New Zealand. And the great people who work here!

What’s on the horizon for you, or what’s the next cool opportunity for you at AgResearch?
After attending a Root Biology conference in Missouri (mid-2017), I’ve got some new ideas for traits we should try to look for in our plants. In 2018, there’s a big roots conference in Israel that might be really useful and exciting to attend. There’s always something new to learn about!

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Senior Scientist – Food & Bio-based Products

Dr Marlon M. Reis

Tell us a little bit about why you joined AgResearch and what you do.
I came to AgResearch to do a Post-Doc on Chemometrics applied to agricultural applications. The plan was to stay for one year, but after six months a position for Senior Scientist was open and I decided to apply. The possibility to apply Chemometrics (my area of expertise) across different fields was the attractive point.  In Chemometrics we develop and apply statistical and mathematical models to interpret and do better use of data related to chemistry. For example in food assurance we collected spectroscopic data (e.g. near infrared spectra) which brings lots of information about the chemical composition and structure of food. This type of data is very easy to collect but needs chemometric models to be useful. So I develop chemometric models for applications such authentication (e.g. test whether lamb meat is really lamb), to predict functional attributes (e.g. bulk density of dairy powder) assess whether the product is still within the expected shelf-life and others.

Tell us about an interesting or exciting project or challenge you’ve been directly involved in as a result of working at AgResearch.
I’m currently leading a Smart Idea funded by MBIE, which involves a very innovative and challenging idea combing hyperspectral imaging and microscopy. The project covers several expertise and I’ve been blessed to work with very good researchers from dairy foods and microscopy, Mariza Reis and Duane Harland, as well as Veronica Novotna, Peter Brorens and more recently Marina Richena. We also collaborate with IMEC, a Belgian research institute .

What do you enjoy most about working at AgResearch?
People. I recently relocated from Ruakura, where I spent 10 years working with amazing people and at Grasslands where we’ve been very welcomed as well. I have also worked with colleagues from Invermay and Lincoln and it has always been enjoyable.  

What’s on the horizon for you, or what’s the next cool opportunity for you at AgResearch?
At the moment we have some very interesting projects producing a large amount of data, especially in the area of hyperspectral video. This is creating an exciting opportunity to develop new ways of looking at the data sets, which involves several computational challenges, giving me an opportunity to expand my expertise in chemometrics in the analytics of large datasets.

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Meat
David PachecoTokanui Dairy FarmDavid Pacheco

Science Team Leader – Animal Science

David Pacheco

Tell us a little bit about why you joined AgResearch and what you do.
I came back to New Zealand after spending a couple of years as Postdoctoral Fellow in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. I knew the group here in Palmerston North because I was based at Grasslands during my PhD studies. As much as I loved our Canadian experience, the prospect of returning to New Zealand was a good one, both in terms of the opportunities I saw at AgResearch and my family links in the Manawatu.

I am currently the Science Team Leader for Animal Nutrition & Physiology and for Rumen Microbiology. I have ‘been through the ranks’, starting as a scientist, then senior scientist, team leader and even a 2.5 year stint as Science Group Leader.

My current science programmes are related to understanding how feeds and feeding influence not only productive aspects in ruminants but also quantifying the scope that we have to use those feeds to reduce environmental impact of animal production (e.g. methane and nitrogen excretion) or contribute to improving the quality of the animal products. As a Team Leader, I try to help our employees to do what they love: science. I’m involved in managing employee performance, recruitment, and I also provide some input on science projects if and when needed.

Tell us about an interesting or exciting project or challenge you’ve been directly involved in as a result of working at AgResearch:
Balancing the productivity and environmental impacts of animal production is a big, big challenge for our science teams. We’re taking a multi-pronged approach to try to solve some of the issues on greenhouse gas emissions and I find it really interesting that we are moving the science from being focused on a single trait to multiple goals in animal production like production, reproduction, methane emissions, nitrogen emissions, health, product quality, etc. I find it intellectually stimulating trying to get my head around the animal as a complex system and come up with thinking that will allow us to get as many win-win situations as possible.

What do you enjoy most about working at AgResearch?
It may sound cliché but really it is the people. Everybody brings something different to this place so there is always an opportunity to continue to learn. Scientists, technical employees, administrative employees – people are very friendly and I will always learn something talking to my colleagues. Another thing I like is that, provided one is flexible, the constant evolution of science, technology and knowledge makes for a fresh challenge every now and then.

What’s on the horizon for you, or what’s the next cool opportunity for you at AgResearch?
I’m really excited about what technological advances will allow us to measure in an animal. The way that food is digested in the rumen has largely been a ‘black box’. Just imagine if we understood enough about how to manipulate the biggest fermentation industry in New Zealand?

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HR

Organisational Talent & Development Manager

Yvette Keys

Tell us a little bit about why you joined AgResearch and what you do.
I joined AgResearch as I wanted to work for an organisation where the employees work passionately for a noble cause. Agriculture is an important industry for NZ – and I was inspired by the organisation’s mission to support stakeholders, industry and ultimately NZ.

Furthermore, holding a Master of Science degree myself, I welcomed the opportunity to work with people who appreciate and expect my practice to be consistent with current research and best practice. I knew this would be tested in a science organisation and I haven’t been let down in this regard.

Tell us about an interesting or exciting project or challenge you’ve been directly involved in as a result of working at AgResearch.
AgResearch acknowledged that we had a capability gap around our employees effectively partnering with our Maori Agribusiness stakeholders. Working together has the potential to unlock huge value for this sector and ultimately NZ. We built a Learning and Development programme to support our employees to engage and work effectively with current and potential Maori Agribusiness stakeholders. The team and their reach have grown – in part as a result of this programme. I learnt so much along the way – building my own Maori cultural capability, as well as learning a lot about my colleagues which was an unexpected, fantastic outcome. A highlight for me has been participating in our Noho Marae stays.

What do you enjoy most about working at AgResearch?
I love the people and how passionate they are about their science and the industry. I’ve enjoyed learning about the sector and our science. Taking a couple of abandoned lambs from the Lincoln Research Farm to bottle feed was a special experience for my family (even if I did get a few strange looks from my colleagues after we gave them a bath). An added bonus has also been AgResearch’s flexible family friendly culture and benefits.

What’s on the horizon for you, or what’s the next cool opportunity for you at AgResearch?
I’m really enjoying the work currently underway focused on shaping our organisational culture to ensure we are attracting, engaging and retaining the best people to continue to deliver fantastic science that provides meaningful impact to the sector and ultimately NZ.

I’m also really excited about our future working environments being part of a major science hub in the near future. I look forward to being based in a purpose built facility to foster collaboration and science excellence.

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PhD Student – Animal Science

Sarah Appleby

Tell us a little bit about why you joined AgResearch and what you do.
I first joined AgResearch as a BSc(Tech) student on a 3 month placement with the Reproduction group at Ruakura, followed that with a 7 month placement at Invermay, Masters at Ruakura, and now I’m in the first year of my PhD with AgResearch and The University of Auckland investigating the use of sheep for xenotransplantation. This uses a whole range of skills from growing cells (tissue culture), gene editing, using new molecular biology techniques such as droplet digital PCR, growing embryos in vitro, and a whole lot of troubleshooting.

Tell us about an interesting or exciting project or challenge you’ve been directly involved in as a result of working at AgResearch.
The best part about working with the reproduction group has been the large range of skills I’ve been exposed to. As a student, it’s unusual to have a placement that offers such a variety of tasks within a project (molecular biology, tissue culture, IVF, cloning) which I know would not be available at other institutions.

An exciting event as a result of working at AgResearch was getting to give a presentation of my master’s research at the Queenstown Molecular Biology conference where I got to speak in front of (and one-on-one later too) a Nobel Prize Laureate.

What do you enjoy most about working at AgResearch?
Definitely the people. The people in my group and the wider campus are such an awesome bunch of people to work with – whether it’s the amazing supervisors, getting to collaborate on a project in the lab, or working together to pull off a successful Christmas party, the people at AgResearch make it a pleasure to turn up to work every morning.

What’s on the horizon for you, or what’s the next cool opportunity for you at AgResearch?
My PhD research will keep me pretty busy for the next while, so I think the next opportunity that’s coming up is the potential to help apply my project to another species. After that, international conference attendance? Post-doc? There are so many possibilities on the horizon!

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Microscope

Senior Scientist – Forage Science

Suliana Teasdale

Tell us a little bit about why you joined AgResearch and what you do.
When I submitted my MSc I was looking for jobs involving plant and fungal symbioses which is a pretty niche area and I found one with the Plant Fungal Interactions team at AgResearch. It was the first job I ever applied for and lucky for me, I got it. I spend most of my time in discovery, looking for new and unique endophytes to use as bio-protection agents in various different grass hosts.

Tell us about an interesting or exciting project or challenge you’ve been directly involved in as a result of working at AgResearch.
My first and favourite project here was to find and characterise fungal endophytes associated with the tropical forage grass Brachiaria. As a result of this project, I got to travel to Kenya and Rwanda to meet with our counterparts in Africa and see first-hand how the overall project helped the everyday farmer. I also faced a lot of challenges as it was the first non-Epichloë discovery-based project for the team, which meant I had to develop a range of new methodologies and was able to expand our understanding of endophyte-plant interactions and how these new relationships varied from the more understood Epichloë association.

What do you enjoy most about working at AgResearch?
I like the people here at AgResearch. We have a very social group at Grasslands which made moving here way easier than it might have been. I also really enjoy working with my team leader, Linda Johnson – an excellent manager who really encourages and supports me in my role and also in developing new skills to help further my career here. Since working here I’ve met heaps of people from various nationalities and backgrounds that I otherwise wouldn’t have known.

What’s on the horizon for you, or what’s the next cool opportunity for you at AgResearch?
I’m hoping to start a PhD that is both funded and interesting in the not too distant future. I also know that I’ll be learning new technologies, including microbiome research. I’ll also be working on endophyte discovery in different crop species. Along with these new projects, I’ll get the opportunity to work more closely with our stakeholders and other employees, developing a different more managerial skill-set.

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