|Dr Rob Walker Chief Research Scientist, CSIRO
ASVO Member since 18/07/1991
Rob was a member of an ASVO Steering Committee formed in 1994 by Terry Lee to establish the Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research, the official Journal of ASVO. After serving for a short time as a member of the founding management committee, Rob moved to become a member of the Editorial Panel, a role held from first issue through to current membership of the Panel of Associate Editors.
Rob’s career in viticultural RD&E started at CSIRO in Adelaide in 1975, followed by a move to CSIRO’s Merbein Laboratory in late 1976 to work on salt tolerance of perennial horticultural crops. In 1978, he was awarded a CSIRO Overseas Fellowship. “I went to Botany School, Cambridge University, where I worked with Roger Leigh on enzymes involved in membrane ion transport”. Rob returned to Merbein in late 1979 to build a research program aimed at improving salt tolerance of grapevines. “Initially, the work involved glasshouse studies, followed by field trials in three regions to assess the performance of grapevine rootstocks under a range of salinities”.
Rob became Officer-in-Charge of the Merbein Laboratory in 1985. “I soon found that research management consumed a lot of my time, but I was determined to keep the research going, largely with the help of Deidre Blackmore who managed the day to day activities”. During the 1990s the Merbein Laboratory became a Program of research within the former Division of Horticulture, then from 1997, in the former Division of Plant Industry. Rob was Program Leader at Merbein through to the staged closure during 2008 -2011. “I was also Viticultural Program Manager within the CRC for Viticulture from 1999 to 2006”. When back in Adelaide, he took-on the role of Theme Leader, Perennial Crops, in 2011, and in 2012 the additional role of Program Leader. After a restructure in 2014, he became Group Leader, Wine Grapes and Horticulture, until December 2015. “The very close interaction with industry and community was a highlight of my time at Merbein, while returning to Adelaide brought new and exciting interactions on Waite Campus”.
Rob has been an Adjunct Professor at Charles Sturt University since 2004 and while at Merbein was an Adjunct Professor and Regional Advisory Board Member of La Trobe University.
“In 2005, we had four PhD students engaged in PhD studies at Merbein, which was great for a regional centre”. Since moving to Adelaide he was appointed to Affiliate Professor at the University of Adelaide. “At Waite, through an annual lecture, I have enjoyed the opportunity to pass-on a lot of what we have learned on salt tolerance of grapevines to the students”.
Rob’s current role is Chief Research Scientist at CSIRO Waite Campus. When asked to nominate a career highlight, “the role of Section President, Viticulture, at the 26th OIV World Congress held in Adelaide in 2001 stands out as a special honour”.