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Career spotlight – Laura Fagan

Laura Fagan is Development Officer, MyPestGuide®, at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development Western Australia.

Laura has been with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development since 2014 and has worked as a practicing Ecological Entomologist for an impressive 25 years.

Links to professional profile(s): 

What does a typical workday look like for you? 

Today I dealt with technical queries from Darwin entomologists, requested a sample reported to our MyPestGuide® system from Broome, attended a Pest Risk & Analysis team meeting with my colleagues, progressed a new travel application to attend the ASW24 workshop, dealt with a few financial invoices and payments, reviewed a State weed preparedness plan, reviewed a National grains biosecurity plan, identified a few insects reported to MyPestGuide®, like the coolest ever sandgroper, trained response staff to use MyPestGuide® as well as project staff in the Northern Territory, advised a CitrusWatch client on creating a new project to assist with area freedom claims and delved into our historical archives to find information on earlier mobile applications as requested by oversees stakeholders….and now it’s finally lunch! 

How long have you worked in this area? 

I have stayed in the same role and within the department since 2014 working. I’ve been a practicing Ecological Entomologist for 25 years. 

How did you find yourself in this career? 

I started my career as a forest entomologist because it provided advanced career opportunities for women in science at the time and focused on both natural and built environments. My choice of roles was always based on balancing work across multiple sectors and included challenging technological problems. The path I chose naturally crossed over into agriculture, then into biosecurity and eventually transitioned to pest risk assessment and emergency preparedness due to climate change. My work in insects has focused on their distribution, monitoring, management, biosecurity, biocontrol, biology, behaviour, diagnostics, and ecology. I have a particular fondness for mites (Acari), thrips (Thysanoptera), aphids (Aphididae), Hymenoptera and Diptera. I have worked on grains, outdoor lettuce, onions, indoor tomatoes and capsicums, and I am especially fond of native plants. I enjoy working closely with growers because they are generally very innovative, willing to try new approaches and enjoy investigating and finding sustainable management solutions for their issues as much as I do.  

What roles have you held previously? 

  • Development Officer (Surveillance, Emergency Management, Entomologist, MyPestGuide®)
  • Research Scientist – entomologist, IPM, thrips, aphids, grains, horticulture, biosecurity 
  • Quarantine Scientist – oil & gas, environmental assessments, weeds, biodiversity & biosecurity 
  • Quarantine Auditor - oil & gas sector, engineering and services providers 

What is your most memorable career achievement? 

Working with the IBISCA team in Panama and having a Buprestid beetle named after me which I collected high up in the rainforest canopy (Agrilus faganae Curletti, 2005 (Coleoptera:Buprestidae)),  my expatriate plant work alongside the B3 Plant & Food Research team in New Zealand and re-surveying plots from the 1980’s in the Kimberley region with the CSIRO field team to compare molecular and diagnostic methodologies, and of course working with the most amazing individuals who make up our diagnostic and surveillance network in Australia. 

 What advice would you give to others starting/changing their career? 

Work with like-minded as well as challenging personalities and try out a many roles as possible when completing your educational training. Find a good balance of being in the great outdoors and office environment if possible. Never say no to an opportunity. Learn to say no when required.  

Remind yourself occasionally your small contributions really do make a difference to protecting the environment. I would also encourage everyone to study basic biology and connect with nature as often as possible.