Capability building - Dr William Talbot
William Targets Career in Scientific Research
Support from the NZAGRC is helping William Talbot on his pathway to becoming a research scientist and continuing to help find ways of economically reducing the environmental impacts of farming.
Christchurch-born William received scholarships from NZAGRC which allowed him to develop his skills and focus on nitrogen losses from farmland.
“These scholarships helped lead me into my PhD studies. My PhD research work is designed to discover ways to reduce nitrogen losses from farms and is part of a large MBIE funded programme led by Dr David Whitehead of Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.”
“The NZAGRC has helped fund the measurement of N2O emissions in my PhD studies. The funding for the nitrous oxide (N2O) emission measurements in my PhD were extremely important to make sure there was no pollution-swapping.”
“I am now in my final year of my PhD, focusing on the use of plantain and Italian ryegrass to reduce N2O emissions and nitrogen leaching. I’m very grateful to the NZAGRC for helping fund my studies and research project.”
William’s research has looked at innovative ways to reduce N losses from soil by manipulating carbon inputs.
“In the first year of my PhD research programme we applied a readily-available carbon source to ryegrass/white clover pasture and lucerne to assess the carbon’s potential to reduce nitrogen losses from soil.”
“My research found that the addition of carbon to soils reduced nitrogen leaching by up to 89%, while not having a significant effect on N2O emissions. Measuring N2O emissions in this study was important to ensure there was no pollution-swapping.”
“These findings show the potential of soil carbon as a tool to reduce nitrogen leaching from farms, while not impacting N2O emissions.”
In his follow up year’s work William has focused on plantain as a method of reducing nitrogen losses – “As plantain potentially releases important carbon-based compounds (e.g. biological nitrification inhibitors) that reduce N2O emissions and nitrogen leaching.”
He says Professor Keith Cameron and Professor Hong Di have been great mentors. “They have been extremely helpful in guiding me through my studies. Roger Atkinson and Trevor Hendry have also provided excellent technical assistance and mentorship to me.”
William has had an interest in science from a very young age. Educated at Heathcote Valley primary school and then Shirley Boys’ High School, he was interested in the core subjects of science, maths and English, with a particular interest in biology and statistics.
His interest in agriculture was sparked at the age of 16, when he got a summer job at Lincoln University, digging lysimeters.
“This experience allowed me to spend time working on farms and being involved in agricultural science. My interest in the area grew from there.”
“I got interested in the nitrogen cycle due to its importance in agriculture and its impact on the surrounding environment. The carbon cycle is linked closely with the nitrogen cycle and its potential importance in the reduction of nitrogen losses to the environment.”
“These nitrogen losses include N2O, a potent greenhouse gas and ozone-depleting substance, and nitrogen leaching, a cause of the eutrophication [excessive richness of nutrients] in our waterways.”
“After high school I enrolled in a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours) at Lincoln University. After my third year I received the summer scholarship from NZAGRC, which allowed me to spend my summer researching and developing my knowledge on nitrogen losses from farms.”
“After this summer scholarship I started my Honours project with a scholarship from NZAGRC. I am grateful for this scholarship which allowed me to focus on farm environmental losses of nitrogen in my studies.”
In his future scientific work, William is keen to discover ways to help farmers to reduce their environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions.
Outside of his studies, he is an outdoors person, particularly enjoying surfing and skiing.
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