Barbara Howlett is an Honorary Professor in the School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne.
She has worked in research areas including influenza, bacterial memory, pollen allergy, nitrogen fixation and plant disease.
Her major interest is blackleg, a fungal disease that limits canola production worldwide. She has developed molecular genetic tools and genomic resources necessary to determine how virulence of the blackleg fungus evolves, which genes are involved in disease and how farmers can avoid devastating yield losses.
This multidisciplinary ‘genome to paddock‘ approach has had a significant economic impact on the Australian canola industry: for instance, in 2012 in the Eyre Peninsula, SA, canola yield losses of up to $18 million were averted.
Prof Howlett was brought up on a farm and has a keen interest in agriculture. She has been a panel member of the Grains Research and Development Corporation and she currently chairs the National Committee for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for the Australian Academy of Science, of which she is a Fellow. Prof Howlett is also Fellow of the Australasian Plant Pathology Society, the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Mycological Society. She is a member of the National Science and Technology Council, which advises the federal government on scientific and technological issues.