sustainability through science & innovation

New recruit to PestFacts south-eastern service, Dr Jessica Lye

From dinosaur digs to the vegetable leaf miner. A message from Jess about her experiences in research, plant biosecurity and agricultural extension.

Hi everyone,

I’m really excited to have joined the PestFacts team at cesar. There is a lot to learn, but I hope that my past experience can bring some great additional value to PestFacts south-eastern and the National Pest Information Service.

A bit about me

In a past life I was a molecular geneticist at Monash University, working at one stage on alkaloid production in nicotine plants, and then investigating the cellular basis of metal ion transport, using vinegar flies as a model system. I have a more recent background in science communication, project management, and biosecurity in the horticulture industry.

In the name of science, I have worked on dinosaur digs, excavated ancient crocodile fossils over weeks and weeks with a tooth pick, chased and tagged fur seals in the Bass Strait, worked as a quarantine officer for transgenic organisms, and aided development of vaccines for the problematic livestock parasite, Barber’s pole worm. 

In my previous role at AUSVEG, peak industry body for Australian vegetable and potato growers, I sat on the leadership team and managed several industry levy-funded projects encompassing agrochemical needs and priorities, sustainable farming, exotic plant pest management, plant pest surveillance, and farm biosecurity. 

During this time, I was an industry representative on the Consultative Committee for Emergency Plant Pests, which kept me extremely busy. Over the period of 2014-2018 the vegetable and potato industries experienced several serious exotic pest incursions, including cucumber green mottle mosaic virus, tomato potato psyllid, varroa mite, brown marmorated stink bug, and the vegetable leaf miner.

Dr Jessica Lye, a new recruit to cesar's PestFacts team

Communicating ag science and seeing research put into practice drives me

While working on the ‘front line’ of emergency plant pest response, I experienced the devastating effects that exotic pest outbreaks can have on Australian primary industries, and in particular, on our growers. I also experienced the incredible role that robust, applicable research and its effective extension can play in reducing the effects of exotic pest outbreaks.

This was true for both research relating to preparedness and scientific initiatives launched in response to pest incursions.

In 2016, I was lucky enough to receive the AgriFutures Australian Rural Women’s Award (Victoria), which allowed me to undertake a US study tour. The tour resulted in the report ‘Knowledge Brokering in Biosecurity: How International Linkages Can Help Us Build a Better System’. I can now appreciate the important role that international advice, expertise, and collaborations can play in aiding our management or eradication of exotic pests. You can find the report here and I hope some (or all!) of the recommendations will be considered by industry, the community, and government at some stage. I would love to present my findings from that visit to you all in person one day.

Ultimately, I’m a strong believer in the translation of science to practical farm outcomes. I want to be part of that critical bridge that spans the gap between scientific research and on-ground application, to help all of you achieve your aims faster, better, and more efficiently. 

So please feel free to give me a call or send me an email for a chat. I intend to be a routine visitor to our growing regions, to hear ‘what bugs you’ so we can make sure PestFacts-south eastern remains as targeted and timely as possible. If you see me zipping around (next week will be a visit to Wagga Wagga) please make sure you say g’day.

Contact Jess at or on 0401 555 567

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