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Autumn 2013 Issue
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A champion of the land

The University of Adelaide's new Deputy Chancellor Di Davidson has moulded a professional life out of her enduring passions - the land, people and education. All three continue to benefit as a result.

Di Davidson has the land in her blood. She was born in the tiny district of Angas Plains near Langhorne Creek, close to the Lower Lakes and Coorong, where the Davidson family settled back in 1850.

For the past 40 years she has been championing the cause of rural communities and using her skills as an agricultural scientist and communicator to help them capitalise on the good times and survive the bad.

"Having grown up in a rural community and lived and worked with the people, I've not only learnt to understand their values but to appreciate the real fabric of the Australian landscape," Ms Davidson said.

A graduate of the University's Waite Agricultural Research Institute, Ms Davidson is one of Australia's leading agriculture, horticulture and viticulture consultants, specialising in water and soil management.

She oversees her own properties at Langhorne Creek and in the Adelaide Hills and provides advice and support for countless others through her consulting company Davidson Viticulture.

Her expertise was in huge demand during the drought when grapegrowers in badly hit regions were struggling to save not only their vines but their livelihoods.

For the past four years Ms Davidson has been at the centre of the volatile national water management debate in her role as a member of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

Having worked from St George in central Queensland to the Lower Lakes in South Australia - and just about everywhere in between - she has an in-depth knowledge of the communities and their issues. This has been invaluable in helping to finalise the basin plan.

"It's been a very, very challenging role to say the least, frustratingly difficult at times and quite upsetting in the way people felt they had been targeted," she said. "But it's also been a privilege to work it through because this is a precious, precious resource and we now have seven years to get the environmental flows working."

Throughout a busy career, Ms Davidson has maintained an intensive interest in learning and has used her wealth of experience to give back to the education system.

After graduating from the University of Adelaide she gained a Master of Science from James Cook University where she took her first job in the botany department. She also has a Graduate Diploma in Business Administration from the old SA Institute of Technology.

For 30 years she has been a guest lecturer at Waite Campus and was chair of the Seymour College Board for six years where she boarded as a young girl. She is also a director of Horticulture Australia Limited which manages R&D funding for the nation's horticultural sector.

Ms Davidson has contributed to hundreds of articles and presentations to industry journals, workshops and seminars and is also the author of two books - A Guide to Growing Winegrapes in Australia and The Business of Vineyards. She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Agriculture, Science and Technology.

Her role on the University of Adelaide Council began five years ago and her appointment as Deputy Chancellor coincides with the $50 million expansion of the University's agricultural science research and teaching centres at the Roseworthy and Waite campuses.

"The University of Adelaide not only has an outstanding past but the future is very bright indeed," she said. "There are enormous strengths to build on in all of our disciplines but for me the most exciting new opportunities come with the Mortlock and Davies bequests, putting really significant funds into agricultural research.

"Waite Campus has been a shining star in the Australian agricultural research sphere for its entire existence and these bequests give us the opportunity to further raise our profile on the global stage."

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Di Davidson, University of Adelaide's new Deputy Chancellor

Di Davidson, University of Adelaide's new Deputy Chancellor
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