Capilano Back Promising Young PhD Candidate

06/10/2017

We are pleased to announce that we have made a $10,000 donation to Cooper Schouten, a promising young PhD candidate from Southern Cross University (SCU) who is passionately working on a number of projects in honey bee research and community development. Cooper is being supervised by Assoc. Prof David Lloyd and Dr Doug Somerville throughout these projects.

Capilano have supported a number of significant projects at SCU, involving the development of methods to map the effects of neonicotinoids, pesticide and other agrochemical contaminations in hives, honey bees and bee products. This research is leading innovation within the Australian honey bee industry and we’re thrilled to support it. We have also been actively involved in supporting Cooper’s research which focuses on generating income for poor and marginalised beekeepers in our neighbouring countries, throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific. His research is not only helping to reduce poverty among rural beekeepers, but the findings have numerous directly transferable benefits for informing best management practice for Australian honey bee biosecurity.

We recently caught up with Cooper and had a chat about all the wonderful things he’s been working on…

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I grew up in Yamba, Northern NSW and moved to Lennox Head to study at SCU in 2012 where I completed my Bachelor of Environmental Science, then went on to do my Bachelor of Science with Honours.

I am now working on completing my PhD and am currently the Senior Technical Specialist for the university’s 'Bees for Sustainable Livelihoods' research group. When I’m not working or beekeeping I’m in the ocean. Beekeeping and surfing share a lot of similarities in that being in nature is a great way to stay present and practicing being calm in intense situations.

What you are studying for your PhD?

My PhD is examining the role of honey hunting and beekeeping in supporting livelihoods for indigenous communities in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. I work in a number of areas, from honey hunting of the Giant Asian Honey Bee (Apis dorsata) in the forests of Indonesia, to beekeeping with the Asian Honey Bee (Apis cerana) in Timor-Leste and beekeepers and the apicultural sector utilising the European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Ultimately, the goal is to help poor beekeepers achieve their aspirations and improve the profitability, productivity and sustainability of their beekeeping enterprises.

I am also involved in a number of other projects regarding honey bee health and welfare. For example, last year we worked on a project that aimed to develop rapid assessment techniques for evaluating potential pesticide contamination of honey. Capilano Honey kindly contributed $7,000 towards research costs as a part an SCU’s seeding grant. Throughout these research projects I have been working closely with a number of researchers and industry partners from Southern Cross University, the NSW Department of Primary Industries, CSIROLyson Australia and Capilano Honey.

Tell us more about this research on accessing the impact of pesticides on bees?

This particular project looked at developing methods for using nanostructured imaging mass spectrometry (NIMS) to rapidly assess honey bees for agrochemicals, including neonicotinoid pesticides and map the distribution of the pesticide metabolites inside the bees.

From this we were successfully able to rapidly detect if bees have been interacting with pesticides in the environment, even at extremely low concentrations. We were also able to map where the pesticide gets to within the bee’s body, which is a promising start for relating pesticides with bee stress physiology.

This novel technique also offers a useful mechanism for large scale studies and routine monitoring of insect pollinators, honey bees and bee products. The method also has the capacity to be used as a high throughput analysis tool for rapid screening of honey bee products, which may enhance quality assurance monitoring by the Australian honey bee industry.

The research publication is currently under review and should be available early to mid-next year, so it will be great to share this new information with the industry soon.

What are your aspirations?

I aspire to attain the diversity of skills, knowledge and ingenuity required to be able to assist beekeepers and their industries in developing countries, particularly in the tropics - from production to consumption, to have fun and make a lot of mates along the way.

Why is it important for organisations, like Capilano, to get behind funding education and research?

Historically there hasn’t been much support and encouragement for young people to get involved in the beekeeping industry in Australia, particularly in areas of research and development. Despite being involved in a number of research projects that support the Australian beekeeping industry, because my PhD is focused on international beekeeping development, there are few scholarships available to support myself and my work while I study.

Capilano have supported a number of industry matched research projects here at SCU and are also supporting the university’s ‘Bees for Sustainable Livelihoods’ program by helping set up a research apiary and Bee Club. We are also being supported by Lyson Australia who will be donating all equipment required to set up the apiary. The aim of the SCU Bee Club is to get the community, young students and scientists excited about agriculture and beekeeping as a sustainable community development initiative.

It has been invaluable to have ongoing support and expert industry advice from Capilano’s technical staff, particularly in regard to quality assurance and post-harvest handling.

I really appreciate the support, to be able to attend and present my research findings internationally at the 45th Apimondia Apicultural Congress in Turkey this week.

Nice work, Coops! Glad to have such an inspirational young Aussie making waves globally. Stay tuned to hear all about Cooper’s Apimonida adventure in our next blog!

If you want to call speak with us, free call. 1800 880 808