Pacific Organic & Ethical Trade Community


Posted On: February 10, 2021

Native plant materials are used for a variety of purposes, such as stabilising stream banks and floodplains, reducing soil erosion and sedimentation, reducing the spread of non-native invasive plants and improving wildlife and fisheries habitat. But did you know that native plants are also used for research to find viable pharmaceutical solutions to combating human diseases as well as alternative eco-friendly solutions to fighting agricultural pests and diseases?

On February 11, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, POETCom pays tribute to women leaders that are stepping into this demanding post COVID future. Dr Marine Toussirot, is a woman scientist specializing in the area of Chemistry Pharmacology, working with native plants to find cures for human chronic diseases such as heart diseases and cancer; as well as finding local and eco-friendly solutions to agricultural pests and diseases. Hailing from New Caledonia, Dr Toussirot shares her exciting journey doing what she loves whilst helping to solve global issues with local solutions.

  1. What is your academic and work background?

I graduated from the University of New Caledonia in 2014 with a PhD in Phytochemistry (doctorat); working on native New Caledonia plants to find molecules with dyeing and pharmacological properties for human cures such as cancer. I then moved to the agronomic research institute of New Caledonia called the IAC (Institut Agronomique néo Calédonien), working on native plants for agronomic purposes such as the integrated control of crop pests in combating agricultural pests and diseases. Moreover, during my academic course I was able to travel and participate in conferences and seminars, do very informative internships in other laboratories, meet many collaborators which allowed me in particular to learn the world of research but also the entrepreneurial world and strengthen my passion for the study of useful plants. I also joined different associations to train myself on scientific animation, the tomorrow alternative technologies or quite simply on other spheres of biodiversity.

I currently do part-time work continuing agronomic researches; and the other part-time I spend on our organic family farm; producing organic products from plants.

  1. Why did you decide to study and work in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field?

I soon discovered that I had a real passion for plants and their uses and pursued my studies in this area. I then with a keen interest have specialized into chemistry of natural substances and pharmacology.

  1. What impact does your work have in your community?

My work in agronomy researches provides farmers with local natural solutions that have low negative environmental and human impacts. This allows for the healthy management of food crops, reducing inputs and imports of harmful chemicals.

In addition, I believe working with useful plants (agronomy, dyeing, cosmetics, pharmacology, etc) enhances the development of healthy alternative knowledge and techniques; whilst also encouraging the protection and valorization of local biodiversity.

  1. As a woman that has studied and worked in a traditionally male dominated field, what would you identify as one of your key learnings?

First of all, I think that it’s important to keep our purpose, our motivation or our passion. Do not let yourself be influenced by any behaviour or word. I am for fairness and respect for everyone. It is always interesting when everyone bring their own skills and sensitivity.

STEM is an area where it is particularly important to be autonomous, to know how to adapt, to have a methodical and an initiative mind, as well as a professional rigor but also to be persevering and dynamic. I think that teamwork is also important and helps genders fit together. Everyone must find their place by respecting themselves.

  1. Any advice for the younger aspiring women and girls in entering the field of science?

I think with real motivation you can do what you really want to do. You must not have barriers and you have to listen to your heart.

The world of science is a fascinating and very rewarding world in which a large number of careers can be established. You must not be afraid to have a go and gradually discover the area that you like the most. I think that as a woman we are well placed in STEM by bringing a complementary sensitivity to men.

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