In response to new initiatives by University of Technology (Unitech), Lae in PNG to introduce a program of postgraduate training in 2005, ACIAR funded a scholarship program to support students during their training. It provided funding initially in 2005 for six students (stipend plus all costs associated with project administration and research support). The project intended to train in total nine candidates to Postgraduate Diploma level and six as MPhil graduates. Unitech staff supervised these projects with planning assistance from senior UQ staff, and were encouraged to seek research linkages with existing ACIAR, NARI and industry projects. Progress was reviewed each year and continuation recommended where each year group of students graduated in the prescribed time.
The ACIAR Scholarship Scheme was initiated in the Department of Agriculture at Unitech at the beginning of the first semester in March 2005 when 6 scholars were appointed to undertake postgraduate studies (five (Dateona, Tumae, Sil, Kombukon, Kawa) for Post-Graduate Diploma (PGD) and one (Ms Rova) for Masters of Philosophy (MPhil). All undertook prescribed courses as well as planning and conducting a small research project.
The results from the PGD projects were submitted in thesis form for examination in November 2005, or where judged appropriate, this research could be continued for a further year, and the results submitted for MPhil. Two scholars were upgraded to MPhil (Tumae, Dateona) and three (Sil, Kawa, Kombukon) submitted and passed all requirements for PGD, graduating officially in April 2006. The topics of research included studies of the economics of peanut production, fish nutrition, fresh produce storage systems, yield decline in sweet potato, viral diseases of Taro and studies of host resistance to the sugar cane borer.
It is expected that the three remaining MPhil students will complete by the end of 2006 and graduate in early 2007.
In the process of providing support for these scholars, a PG computer laboratory (6 computers plus ancillary equipment) was established and research funds supplied which permitted some upgrading of existing research facilities in the Department.
In November 2005, a further 7 scholars (one woman) were appointed to undertake initially PGD training in 2006. These scholars were selected from a total of 12 qualified applicants and started their programs in March 2006. Again a wide range of topics has been chosen for study, and includes 9 of the 14 staff in the Department as supervisors.
The topics for 2006 include extension studies with peanut farmers, the incidence of Leptospirosis in local cattle, developing sources of traditional feed for pigs and fish (Tilapia), genotype x environment interactions in Taro, studies of vesicular streak disease of cocoa and virus detection in sweet potatoes. New computers and upgraded laboratory and green house facilities are planned for 2006, with possible support from the current project for some of the costs. The budget for 2005/2006 was sufficient to meet requirements, and a small surplus will be carried forward to 2006.
The ACIAR Scholarship Scheme was initiated in the Department of Agriculture at Unitech at the beginning of the first semester in March 2005, when 6 scholarships were awarded, one for MPhil studies (two years) and 5 for Post-Graduate Diploma (PGD) studies (one year). In March 2006, 3 students graduated with PGD, with three scholars continuing with MPhil studies (two PGD scholars had been upgraded to MPhil). At this time, a further 7 scholarships were awarded for PGD studies. In April 2007, all PGD (Boas, Topi, Yeponge, Taia, Tapat, Butubu, Takaboi) and two MPhil (Tumae, Datoana) students graduated, bringing the total graduated under the scholarship scheme to 12 from 13 appointments. The remaining MPhil candidate (Rova) has yet to make corrections to her thesis and will graduate in 2008. The topics of research so far conducted have included extension studies with peanut farmers, the incidence of Leptospirosis in local cattle, developing sources of traditional feed for pigs and fish (Tilapia), genotype x environment interactions in Taro, studies of vesicular streak disease of cocoa, virus detection in sweet potato and studies of stem borers in sugar cane. A public seminar was held at Unitech in October 2006 at which all students presented the results of their studies. In this year, additional support funding was provided for the refurbishment of a laboratory to house new equipment (Inductively Coupled Plasma Atomic Emission Spectrometer (ICP), LECO C:N analyser) to support PG training and research at Unitech. Installation to operational status will occur in 2007 in association with training of technical staff Professor Halim (Head of Department of Agriculture) visited UQ to discuss the organisation of post-graduate training and to explore opportunities for research collaboration in his field of extension. Five new PGD scholars (4 males, 1 female) commenced in February 2007, their topics being local feed source for chickens, pelleting methods for fish feeds Department of Food Science and Technology), survey looking for peanut yellow stripe virus, local use of indigenous leguminous trees (Department of Forestry) and effects of soil compaction on plant growth. There were no MPhil (2 year) candidates appointed this year because the current ACIAR Scholarship scheme ends in March 2008. The candidates (2 females, 3 males) were drawn from NARI, NAQIA and local Agriculture. This is the first year that other Departments have been included in the Scholarship scheme. The budget for 2006/2007 was sufficient to meet requirements, and a small surplus will be carried forward to 2007.
The ACIAR Scholarship Scheme was initiated in the Department of Agriculture at Unitech at the beginning of the first semester in March 2005, when 6 scholarships were awarded, one for MPhil studies (two years) and 5 for Post-Graduate Diploma (PGD) studies (one year). In March 2006, 3 students graduated with PGD, with three scholars continuing with MPhil studies (two PGD scholars had been upgraded to MPhil). At this time, a further 7 scholarships were awarded for PGD studies. In April 2007, all 2006 PGD and three MPhil students graduated, bringing the total graduated under the scholarship scheme to 13 from 13 appointments. In 2007, a further 5 scholarships were granted (3 in Agriculture, 1 in Forestry and 1 in Applied Science). All candidates successfully graduated in March 2008, bring the total number of ACIAR graduates so far to 18 (15 PGDiplomas and 3 MPhil). Project theses are available from Unitech on request. Topics in the last year have included studies of the incidence of peanut yellow stripe virus in PNG, use of indigenous leguminous trees in PNG Forestry, flotation characteristics of locally made fish feeds, use of local ingredients for chicken rations and effects of soil compaction on plant growth. A further 6 scholars have been appointed for PG Diploma Studies in 2008, with 4 from the Department of Agriculture, one from Forestry and one from Applied Science
In this year, new equipment (Inductively Coupled Plasma Atomic Emission Spectrometer (ICP) and LECO C:N analyser) was installed and made operational in a newly equipped laboratory at Unitech. Mr Tata Telawiki, Unitech Laboratory Manager, is drawing up a business plan for the Unitech and commercial use of this equipment, and will be undertaking further training under Mr Graham Kerven, Senior UQ Laboratory Technologist, at UQ later this year. Four Unitech staff, partly supported by project funding, visited the University of Melbourne seeking collaboration for their interests in farming systems research at Unitech. Later in the year, a workshop will be held among the students, staff, government and industry employers and ACIAR to determine how effective the outcomes have been from this project and to outline possible new directions for the project in future.
This scheme has provided a stream of graduates who have been quickly taken up into government departments and research institutes, industry and universities, providing expertise urgently needed by the rapidly developing agricultural industries in PNG.
The value of this joint initiative between the Department of Agriculture and ACIAR is recognised throughout PNG as a relevant model for the future development of locally trained research expertise in PNG. Some recent graduates are now being offered positions in the National Agricultural Research Institutes, are becoming more involved in ACIAR programs, and have been successful applicants for postgraduate training in Australia. Australia agricultural research is a world leader in many fields, and this expertise is being shared with Unitech staff and helping to develop quality graduates who will be future ACIAR collaborators and scientists, advancing the application of the science of agriculture to this very important and close neighbour to Australia.
The success of the program has been huge and a new phase of the ACIAR scholarship scheme was developed to take it further. Its aim is to enhance skills of supervisors for PG supervision, research and research management and to develop graduate students with skills applicable and relevant to PNG’s agricultural research needs.