Pierce to leave UCD after 13 years

Image Credit: UCD AgFood

Lecturer in Dairy Production Dr. Karina Pierce spoke to Niall Hurson about her time spent teaching at UCD and her hopes for the future with Enterprise Ireland.

Dr. Karina Pierce, School of Agriculture and Food Science lecturer in Dairy Production is to leave UCD after 13 years for a new venture in the agriculture and innovation branch of Enterprise Ireland. Speaking with The University Observer, Dr. Pierce described her path to becoming a well-respected figure within the Irish dairy industry.

As an undergrad Dr. Pierce studied animal science at UCD from 1997 to 2001 in what was called the Faculty of Agriculture at the time. “I grew up on a beef and sheep farm in Co Wicklow, I always loved agriculture from a young age. Coming to UCD to study Ag opened up a whole new world of opportunities for me. I started a postgrad after animal science and during my first year I transferred to a PhD in pigs. It just goes to show how broad the Ag degree can be when you start with a beef and sheep background, do your PhD in pigs, and end up teaching dairy production. I completed my PhD within 3 years and in 2004 I began working with Brett Brothers feed mill in Callan, Co Kilkenny as an animal nutritionist. I spent two years working with the feed mill and during this time I worked with many dairy farmers. I took silage samples, looked at winter feed strategies, and supplementation of grass, so a lot of my work ended up in the dairy sector”.

After time spent working with Brett Brothers, Dr. Pierce returned to UCD in 2006 as a postdoc researcher. “The position of dairy lecturer came up in early 2007 and I began the lecturing post in April of that year. I was lucky to have been with Lyons during a dynamic time where we secured over €2 million in funding to build the new dairy facility on the farm which was officially opened in January 2016. To have the new facility and double the number of cows allowed us to conduct a lot more research which has kept us very busy over the past number of years. When you’re lecturing you don’t always start out with a teaching qualification, you start out as a PhD or researcher. I completed the diploma in university teaching and learning during my time as a lecturer. Originally my main interest was in research, but I have loved teaching and every year you get a new group of students with a range of challenges which you help them with. I have headed up the Dairy Business degree since it started in 2009, which was something I really enjoyed getting my teeth stuck into.”

The Nuffield Scholarship began in the 1940s, founded by William Morris who later became Lord Nuffield. Morris started the scholarship with the view of developing agriculture through people. Dr. Pierce believes “you need industry leaders to drive the industry. I am a 2019 Nuffield scholar, it’s a two-year programme so last year I completed my travels and now in 2020 I will write a report which I will present at the national conference at the end of the year. The scholarship allows you to gain a global view of agriculture. I travelled 11 countries in 12 weeks including Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, France, Canada, US, Australia, and New Zealand. Across those countries I saw agriculture in all its forms and the idea is that the travel will open your mind to what’s happening around the world and identify opportunities for Ireland. Sustainability was the key topic in every country we visited and in every presentation we listened to. The question is how we differentiate ourselves, when we are all saying that we are the most sustainable, for some countries this may mean safe affordable food. Higher income countries will talk about sustainability as a change in carbon footprint but if you’re in Indonesia and parts of south east Asia which are much poorer, they’re not thinking about those things.”

Enterprise Ireland is a state agency as part of the Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation. The company has over 11,000 employees working with companies such as Abbot, Donone, Glenilen, and Glenisk. “I’ve been at UCD quite a while and I’ve loved my role within the university, and who knows what the future will bring. I have seen from my interactions with Enterprise Ireland in the past while working with UCD that they have great potential to help companies. They have a range of supports and their role is to develop Irish businesses helping them increase jobs and exports. This is good for us nationally but will also allow us to become more competitive internationally as well. With a knowledge of primary agriculture and the experience that I have gained from working in UCD I hope that my capabilities will be beneficial to them. I will be working with a range of Irish companies such as milk processors, and other functional foods companies. Working with enterprise Ireland will give me the opportunity to support companies navigate climate change, sustainability, Brexit and trade deals which all bring their individual challenges.”