18 September 2019

Summer whirlwind Secondment at Agroscope

Written by Ellie Stone (ESR16)

At the end of July, I journeyed to Zurich to learn about the ToxicPlants-PhytoToxin (TPPT) database from its creator Barbara Günthardt at Agroscope. After a bumpy start that involved lost luggage, I had a great welcome to Zurich at Thomas Bucheli’s BBQ, held for the visiting researchers of his research group. It was great to catch up with many NaToxAq ESR’s on secondment (working hard on the Lupins Project) and meet other researchers, such as the members of the PERECUSO project based in Cuba.

My work at Agroscope involved learning the TPPT database from the ground up. From the collection of the plants, running in silico predictions on the identified compounds, right up to the aquatic micropollution assessment. It was a learning curve on my part, but a really great way to get acquainted with the processes and appreciate the time and work that went into it.

I was lucky enough to get out the office (a real treat for someone who is desk-bound) and accompany Barbara as she went on her surface water sampling campaign around different parts of Switzerland. The first trip was to Ticino, in the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland and the second focused upon sampling in the Alps. The scenery was exceptionally beautiful and made for a lovely workplace. We also got to visit Agroscope’s medicinal plant and berry research facility in Conthey. We had a tour of the facilities and shared information about the NaToxAq project, including my project’s interest in adding medicinal plants to the TPPT database.

In the small space of 2 weeks, I had time not only to learn the TPPT database and travel Switzerland but also experience Swiss culture on the Swiss National Day, which involved a lot more freewheeling fireworks than I had expected. Overall working in a different organisation in a different country was a really great experience and has spurred on my TPPT database expansion efforts!