Sign Up

From bank to biological sciences a natural transition for Vaughn

Researcher in focus: Vaughn Bell
11 Nov 2022
Previous  | Next   News

For as long as he can remember, Vaughn Bell has been fascinated with plants – their form, their colour and their structure.

But life works in strange ways, and instead of following his passion of studying botany and plant ecology straight from college, 18-year-old Vaughn was fast-tracked into the ANZ Bank in Wellington, New Zealand, as a junior. 

A diligent Vaughn worked his way through the ranks over the next 17 years, ending up as lending manager at 35 years of age.

But when a redundancy package was offered, Vaughn bit the bullet and took it – starting a new chapter in his life and career by enrolling in the Victoria University of Wellington (VUW), where he completed Bachelor of Science and Master of Science (MSc) degrees.

Vaughn then worked with HortResearch which later became Plant and Food Research (PFR), a New Zealand Crown Research Institute, and was encouraged to continue his study; completed a Ph.D. in 2009 at VUW. 

“As I periodically reflect on my career to date, I am forever grateful that I not only had the opportunity to use my university qualifications in my chosen field, but that I was supported by PFR to undertake a PhD,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn is the lead on the development of the grape and wine sector’s Grapevine leafroll disease and Shiraz disease: interim recommendations for management in Australian vineyards, funded by Wine Australia.

The project aimed to develop a practical ‘how to’ guide for vineyard owners and their staff to detect and manage the three viral pathogens of economic importance in Australia – grapevine leafroll-associated virus 1 (GLRaV-1), GLRaV-3, and GVA, which causes Shiraz Disease.

Vaughn Bell and Coco the Jack Russell.

Vaughn says his love of the biological sciences is rooted in the opportunity for continued learning. 

“That said, if I had been asked at the start of university where I thought I would end up, I would’ve suggested a career working with our indigenous plants, perhaps working alongside our much cherished Department of Conservation.

“That I ended up working in the wine sector studying an insect group (mealybugs) transmitting an economically important virus (grapevine leafroll disease), was never contemplated. Never!”

He says that fate – and two key mentors along the way (Drs Rod Bonfiglioli and Jim Walker) – led him to where he is today. 

“It was never envisaged, but it certainly isn’t regretted,” says Vaughn.

Vaughn says there is a lot to love about science. 

“I have worked with some amazing people – passionate, quirky, talented, and inspirational. I have also had the absolute privilege of working closely with the New Zealand wine sector for the past 18 years. For me, the greatest appeal has been the opportunity to interact with growers in a way that has allowed me to get to know them and to really understand the issues they face.

“To undertake research is wonderful, but to do so in a way that has potential to offer others knowledge, understanding, and (hopefully) a meaningful resolution to problems, is special and something I have never taken for granted.”

You can read more about the management guide here.

This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.

Levy payers/exporters
Non-levy payers/exporters
Find out more

This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.