Zeus Mateos-Fierro

Zeus Mateos-Fierro has completed a PhD in Environmental Science

Zeus Mateos-Fierro - credit Dr Kirsten Hunter
Photo credit Dr Kirsten Hunter

Zeus is a PhD student whose ground-breaking research into environmentally sustainable forms of commercial crop production has already had a big impact in the field. He originally studied for both his undergraduate and Master’s degrees in his native Spain, before moving to the UK to take up a position as an entomology assistant at NIAB EMR, a horticultural research institution based in Kent.

“I wanted to do research in agricultural entomology, which is a rather specific topic,” Zeus said. “So, I had to wait for the right PhD for me. I was lucky that Dr Duncan Westbury at the University of Worcester managed to get funding for a project looking at sustainable forms of pollination and pest control. When I saw the PhD opportunity advertised, I applied and was successful in being offered the position.”

Zeus’ PhD evaluated the practice of planting wildflowers in alleyways of commercially grown cherry trees, to see if this approach could be helpful in boosting yield whilst reducing pests, and all without the need for environmentally harmful pesticides.

“The findings were very exciting and promising,” Zeus said. “The wildflower strips boosted abundance and diversity of both pollinators and natural enemies. This led to an increase in sweet cherry production and reduction in cherry pests.”

Zeus’ research at Worcester was conducted in partnership with Berry Gardens and Waitrose, and the success of his trials have led to the immediate adoption of his technique in the field.

“Interestingly, since I got such good results, Berry Gardens is encouraging its growers to apply this approach in their orchards,” he said. “Also, thanks to my PhD, I’m collaborating with two people from Belgium and Germany to write a global review on sweet cherry pollination.”

“After finishing my PhD, I got a job as an entomology researcher in Reading,” he added. “I’m working on Integrated Pest Management at a new company looking at the Sterile Insect Technique. This is using X-ray on male pests to sterilize, and then release them in the field to mate with wild females. The females would lay infertile eggs, reducing therefore pest pressure in crops without using pesticides.”

With the successful completion of his PhD and the adoption of many of its findings by the industry, Zeus is looking forward to a bright future as an entomologist. But he is also looking forward to graduation, and the chance to celebrate his achievements with all those who have helped him along the way.

“Although graduation was originally postponed due to the Covid pandemic, graduating now still feels like all the hard work throughout all these years is being recognized and makes me feel like I really earned the title.”

“I cannot thank enough the University of Worcester and its staff,” Zeus added. “I felt most welcome, and the atmosphere was amazing. Being a PhD student at the University of Worcester was really great, with the Research School and the Postgrad network offering everything from support to very interesting seminars, or just a well-deserved coffee catch-up. “Above all," said Zeus, "I will remember the inestimable support of all my supervisors who were there every step of the way.”