My career in wood protection began some 56 years ago in 1961 when I joined the CSIRO Division of Forest Products, initially as Technical Officer and Experimental Scientist, and retiring some 31 years later as Assistant to the Chief of the Division as a Senior Specialist. My research focused on termite and other insect studies and management in a variety of projects in wood protection, but also importantly, Industry interactions, networking and technology transfer.
There is no doubt that my great opportunity came in 1967 when I was fortunate enough to be awarded one of the early Australian Churchill Fellowships, for a ten-month world study tour ─ “An International Study of the incidence, distribution and economic significance of certain wood-destroying insects having the potential ability to establish in Australia”. So throughout 1968, I met and worked alongside most of the international gurus in my field in the USA, UK, Europe, as well as South and East Africa. I returned to CSIRO after many of those international experts had communicated commendatory remarks about my abilities to CSIRO management and the organisation was then willing to listen to my recommendation that we should expand our entomology research efforts. During my time at CSIRO, I served under three Division Chiefs, namely Dr Eric Dadswell, Dr Roy Muncey and Dr Warren Hewertson. Each gave me the opportunity to progress into areas beyond my immediate assignments, and those were challenges that I welcomed.
After retiring from CSIRO in 1992 I served for 20 years as the National Secretary of the Timber Preservers Association of Australia (TPAA) and during that time also served as the National Executive Director of the Australian Environmental Pest Managers Association (AEPMA). It has been said that industry liaison and networking abilities have played a significant role in my career and I do not take exception to that contention. There have been many networks over the years to which I was able to make major contributions. Prominent amongst them of course, is the IRG of which I first became a Member in 1975, and later served as Chairman of Working Group I – Biological Problems, Sub-Group 5 – Insects in Dry Wood, and for the last several years on the IRG Communications Committee. I also am proud to have been associated with many other relevant entities which are included in the Appendix to this bio.
While organizational interactions have been an important part of my life, my enduring career focus involved my beavering away as a forest products entomologist. Personal relaxation, when it could be grabbed, was on our small houseboat at Lake Eildon, some 140 kilometres northeast of Melbourne, to which for more than 20 years, my wife Sigrid and I would escape whenever possible, often with industry friends or colleagues as guests. Lake Eildon is a mecca for trout fishermen and boating enthusiasts. Its shoreline stretches for 415km and its capacity of 2.3 million megalitres means that it holds five times as much water as Sydney Harbour. I well remember that the first draft of the first edition of Australian Standard AS3660.3 - 2000, Termite management Part 3: Assessment criteria for termite management systems, was cobbled together on Houseboat “Genesis” over a few days during which Jim Creffield, Michael Lenz and Leigh Miller were our on-board guests in 1999. Jim even found time to catch a fish.
After the conclusion of my ten-year term as Executive Director of the AEPMA in 2006, I was honoured with the title of Honorary Advisor for the Federation of Asian and Oceania Pest Managers Associations (FAOPMA). I have thus been able make a continuing contribution to the pest management industry, also as Editor of the bi-monthly Newsletter “PPM News”. Sigrid and I have become regular attendees at the annual FAOPMA conventions in many countries and we both continue to enjoy the opportunity to do so.
“So what do you do now that you don’t have a full-time job anymore?” they ask me. The answer is that I still need to keep up with developments in timber treatment and pest management in order to communicate those developments through the two newsletters of which I am Editor – TPAA “CONTACT” and FAOPMA “PPM NEWS”. I’m still chasing termites but these days mostly on my computer. For the last couple of years, I have been working with friend and “Termiteer” Ion Staunton as co-authors of a book. If we achieve our planned schedule, “Colonies in Collision – A Concatenated Chronicle of Termites and Termiteers in Australia 1788 – 2018” should see the light of day before the end of 2017. Watch out for it!
Finally, I also have time for some reflection. The great people and the great friendships are really what have kept me going for so long. The productive entomological partnership that I shared with Jim Creffield over many years was THE scientific highlight! With his able support, the publications graduated from being authored by “Howick” to “Howick and Creffield”, to “Creffield and Howick” and eventually to “Creffield”. Those publications and others can be seen at this link Once again, thank you Jim! Without that support I could never have done all those other things. At least I take the credit for choosing wisely in your appointment and for encouraging you to achieve professional excellence, just as my mentors had encouraged me.
As to the future, it will bring whatever I am fortunate enough to achieve with Sigrid’s continuing help and encouragement – and patience.
My career has spanned an all-absorbing 56 years, throughout which I have been fortunate and privileged to have been encouraged and supported by a world-wide coterie of mentors and colleagues and to each of them I am grateful.
My CSIRO mentors were Norm Tamblyn, John Beesley and Frank Gay and my international mentors were Siegfried Cymorek, Gunther Becker and Norman Hickin. Scientific colleagues with whom I had close interactions included Jim Creffield, Michael Lenz, Tony Watson, Bob Barrett, Dare Edwards, Peter Meadows, Sandy McQuire, Jack Pattison, Brenton Peters, Steve Broadbent, Bob Eldridge, Harry Greaves, and Rob Fryatt, a number of whom have been and in some cases still are IRG members.
Interaction with the timber industry was an important facet and role in my career at CSIRO, and in that regard my industry mentors were Norton Ladkin, Bob Parish, Con Lembke, Jack Bowen and Andy Blackwell. I worked closely with a number of timber industry colleagues and these included Brian Tutton, Graeme Smith, Neil Carr, Tom Brabin, Ian Sherwen, Dick Darnoc, Thorry Gunnersen, Kevin Kelly, John Crooke and Peter Whelan. Being an entomologist, I also worked, and continue to participate actively with the pest management industry. My mentors there included Phil Hadlington, Ion Staunton and Roland Hovey.
I sincerely want to thank each and every one of those mentioned above, for helping, contributing to, and encouraging me at various points in my career.
I am proud to have been associated with many other relevant entities:
My other forest products industry organisational involvements (1970-1999) were: