Harley Smith

Team Leader-Research Scientist CSIRO Agriculture & Food Member since 2016, AWITC Fresh Science winner 2019  

What attracted you to your current role? I see science as a vehicle to apply existing knowledge to help solve pressing problems in various industries throughout the world. Therefore, I was attracted to my current role, as it offered me the opportunity to lead a research team aimed at developing and delivering elite rootstocks to safeguard the Australian Grape and Wine Industry from parasitic soil pests. At the same time, I have support to lead research project(s) in avocado aimed at maximizing yield and reducing seasonal variation.

What is one of your interesting findings in your research career? In 2018, the CSIRO Rootstock Breeding Team identified genetic determinants for resistance to grape phylloxera and root knot nematode from the wild North American grape species Vitis cinerea. These two discoveries provide our team with the necessary tools to develop durable grape phylloxera and root knot nematode resistant rootstocks via marker-assisted selection. As a result, we can effectively delivery new rootstocks to safeguard the Australian Grape and Wine Industry from biosecurity related pests.

What inspires you? Humble and mindful people who forge their own path in life without harming others and promoting negativity inspire me. Linoleum, naugahyde sleepers and the Wheel are other sources of inspiration for me.

Whom do you look up to the most and why? I look up to my family, friends and colleagues, as well as Mark Mothersbaugh, Ian MacKaye, Greg Graffin, Terry Allen, Milo Aukerman, Jello Biafra, Henry Rollins and Kids of the Blackhole.

Outside of work, what are interesting facts about yourself? I’m a punk at heart and love listening to the early 80’s punk bands from San Francisco (Bay Area), Santa Cruz, Orange County, Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC and other cities in the U.S. During my youth, I was on vocals for two punk bands in Oakland and Santa Cruz, California. I qualified and competed at the 1997 and 1999 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. I now spend my time outside of work smelling the flowers with Caroline (wife) and Charlie (2 year old son). Charlie and I enjoy listening to the Ramones during breakfast!

What is the best career advice you’ve been given? The career advice given to me by supervisors was to work hard, keep up with the literature and learn to develop new research niche(s). Also, don’t be afraid to do what is best for you, so long as it doesn’t do harm to others. The one career advice I never enjoyed was attempting to “sell” research outcomes. I’m a cell-out not a sell-out.

What advice or recommendation do you have for students interested in a science career? My advice to students is a science career is very challenging for many reasons including pressures around job security, funding, publishing, etc. People who are successful in science have a passion for their research. Teamwork is a key element in a science career and involves collaborative-based work, as well as managing, mentoring and directing research. A career in science allows researchers to observe, characterize and describe events in nature. It also allows researchers to develop products and technologies to help industries and society. I believe that there is unique opportunity for young people to contribute new ideas to solve the world’s most pressing problems in a rapidly changing environment.

Membership How long have you been a member of ASVO and why would you recommend ASVO to your colleagues? I have been an ASVO member since 2016, when the CSIRO Rootstock Breeding Team published an article the Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research.

What has been your membership contribution? I presented at AWITC workshops on rootstocks and recently at the AWITC Fresh Science Session in 2019. I also attended the 2018 ASVO Innovation Seminar.

What other organizations to you contribute to? I presented at CRUSH Symposiums and the McLaren Vale Technical Viticulture Conference. In addition, I contributed articles to the Wine and Viticulture Journal and Vinehealth newsletters. I also contributed an article to the Avocados Australia “Talking Avocados” newsletter.