Professor Michael D’Occhio is the inaugural Nancy Roma Paech Chair in Range Science. Nancy Paech spent her early years at ‘Leeson Station’, Winton, Queensland, and in memory of her life in outback Australia she left a very generous bequest to the University of Sydney. The bequest is being used to support teaching and discovery and applied science that improves the efficiency, sustainability and profitability of livestock production, and enhances the life of farmers.
Michael received a PhD in animal reproductive biology from the University of Adelaide.
His research has centred on gaining a better understanding of the biological processes that regulate metabolic and reproductive function in animals. Endocrine signalling between the brain, pituitary gland and somatic tissues has been a primary interest. This includes discovery and fundamental science at the level of genetics, molecular and cellular biology, organ function, and whole animal.
Research is undertaken with an eye to relevance and application and Michael was associated with the development and commercialisation of the first anti-fertility vaccine in livestock. This work continues with improved, next-generation vaccines. Michael also has a long association with strategic and applied research on GnRH agonists which, depending on the method of use, can both enhance and suppress fertility.
Traditional livestock research will not be sufficient to achieve the transformation in production systems required to meet the increase in demand for animal protein, whilst not imposing excessive demands on natural resources. Engineering and robotic science has an important role in shaping future agricultural systems and this will include new and emerging sensing, imaging and monitoring technologies. Automated and remote animal recording systems will have particular application in the management of production, health and wellbeing in extensive livestock systems. This is a priority area of the new ‘Livestock in Landscapes’ group and provides the opportunity for multi-disciplinary postgraduate research.
Food security is, rightly, receiving considerable national and global attention, and there are a multitude of paradigms and perspectives brought to the discussion. It is important that the dimensions, and indeed the realities, of what food security means in developed and developing countries are recognised. Likewise, the relationship between poverty and food security needs to be understood and also nutritional security. Michael has a keen interest in this area and he coordinates ‘Food and Water Security’ in the University of Sydney Sustainability Program. Food security is also being increasingly embedded in undergraduate teaching in the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment.