Developing efficient, sustainable and innovative strategies to protect plants from insects
Dr Sharon Downes has studied the cotton pests Helicoverpa armigera and H. punctigera for the past 15 years to help develop strategies for managing their resistance to biotech cotton, as part of an integrated pest management approach.
Dr Downes studied at the University of Melbourne then completed her PhD at the University of Sydney, examining fundamental questions about the behavioral ecology of predator-prey interactions.
Following postdoctoral work in Belgium and back in Australia, she joined the CSIRO team at the Australian Cotton Research Institute in Narrabri, NSW, where she now leads a research program that enhances the performance of the Australian cotton industry by developing efficient, sustainable and innovative strategies to protect plants from insects.
Dr Downes' specific focus is on understanding pest resistance to the Bt toxin in biotech cotton. She studies how factors such as toxin performance, pest behaviour, resistance characteristics, and preparedness for pest incursions from overseas, interact to shape the risk profile for the Australian cotton industry.
Dr Downes is an invited member of the advisory panels convened by the peak industry body, Cotton Australia, for the purpose of recommending the most scientifically appropriate practices to manage resistance.