Award finalist has grand plans for wildflowers and ferns | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Award finalist has grand plans for wildflowers and ferns

A USC graduate who is determined to see the Australian wildflower and native plant industry bloom has been named a Queensland finalist in the National Rural Women’s Award.

Now the Research Manager at Cedar Hill Flowers and Foliage, Emily Rigby of Mapleton, also teaches science research methods at the USC, where she gained a Bachelor of Science (Environmental Science) in 2008, followed by First Class Honours in Horticulture in 2014.

Emily is one of four Queensland finalists in the awards that recognise emerging women leaders who have the potential to make a greater contribution to primary industries and rural communities.

She is in the running to win $10,000 for professional development, and plans to use these funds to travel the country meeting other growers of wildflowers and native plants and to develop online resources based on her research into growing Australian grass trees (Xanthorrhoea).

“My vision is to support, connect and collaborate with existing growers, many of whom are quite isolated in rural areas, because I believe we can improve and develop our native plant species into a more efficient sustainable and productive primary industry,” said Emily.

The awards are sponsored by the Australian Government’s Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and supported by Queensland’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

The Queensland winner will be announced at a ceremony at Parliament House in Brisbane on Tuesday 24 February and go on to a national awards ceremony in Canberra later this year.

Cedar Hill specialises in the production and marketing of Australian native plants for the nursery and cut flower industry. Emily completed a work placement there during her degree, then secured the full-time job of Post-Harvest Research Scientist soon after graduating in 2008.

Green bouquet_260x260px.jpg“I’m now Research Manager and have been Project Leader on Cedar Hill’s umbrella fern project since 2009, trying to establish a new way to successfully propagate this unique, high-value Australian native fern,” said Emily.

“My USC Honours project contributed to this research and I’m now very proud to say that we have over an acre of established umbrella fern in Woombye and Mary Valley for commercial cut foliage production, and the plant is now commercially available for the first time as a potted plant in bonsai form.”

Emily is passionate about supporting the next generation of scientists and encouraging young women to pursue their dreams.

“I have now been teaching at USC for seven years and provide work placements for Environmental Science students, so I can inspire, encourage and enable them to explore theoretical knowledge and acquire practical experience in the horticulture industry and working in rural Australia first hand,” she said.

“I started uni as a young mother aged 20 and finished after the birth of my second child four years later. I am very grateful for the support I received during my studies so I try to support other young women to achieve their goals whenever I can.”

Pictured at top is Emily among umbrella ferns and right is a green bouquet with umbrella fern and koala fern.

— Jane Cameron


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