Agriculture student president has a passion for nature
Meet Paul Manning
Jane Affleck - September 14, 2012
From Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, Paul Manning had tons of opportunities as a kid to get out and explore nature.
“I’ve always been a big nature nerd,” he says with a grin, adding that he and his siblings used to spend a lot of time outdoors by the water.
Now, Manning is in his final year of doing a Bachelor of Science (Agriculture) in Environmental Sciences, with a specialization in organic agriculture. He's also entering his second year as president of what is now the Dal Agriculture Student Association.
Some people have been calling him “the insect guy” or “the bug charmer.” But Manning's interest in bugs happened by chance when he did four-month internship in Ethiopia.
At the time, considering different areas of Environmental Sciences, Paul was in Ethiopia to participate in a project aimed at setting up Bachelor and Master of Science programs in post-harvest management. “So I’d help some of the profs with taking attendance, running errands, finding samples of fungal diseases — a bit of everything.”
It was while visiting different farms in Ethiopia that he was first wowed by the diversity of the insect world. “The most amazing insects I saw were goliath beetles and praying mantis — they’re five inches long. You just hold them in your hand, and they move so slowly,” he gestures. “It’s incredible watching them move and hunt."
'Fun and useful'
When he came back from Ethiopia, Manning took an intro entomology class with associate professor Chris Cutler. “It was excellent,” says Manning. “He encouraged me to apply for an NSERC research award, to study ground beetles. I had the time of my life. I was testing them as biological control agents for different insect blueberry pests, to investigate how effective they are in killing blueberry pests.”
This past summer, he received another grant to study wild blueberry pollinators. “We’re looking at nighttime flying insects analysis, for pollen loads,” he says, adding that, “there were a few nights spent out in the freezing cold blueberry field,” because of the insects’ most active pollinating periods.
But he doesn’t seem to mind. “It’s fun to analyze the samples,” he says. Aside from being a great summer employment opportunity, the experience also allowed Manning to gather data for his honours project.
Entomology classes have helped Manning discover how to apply his love of nature. “It’s a more productive use of my time,” he explains. “It’s a combination of something fun and useful.”
He’s also been doing fun and useful things in the Student Association. “Being involved in campus events is great—making people happy is fun and rewarding,” he says. He’s helped coordinate a range of events, including a fundraiser for the 2010 floods in Pakistan. But the “college royals,” the Royal Winter Fair, "is one of the best. There’s milk chugging, corn javelin, pumpkin carving—it’s amazingly fun. Everyone looks forward to it every year.”
After he graduates, Manning plans to do a Master of Science. Looking back on his time in Truro, he says: “There are really great opportunities here. I’d come back here if I had to do it again. I recommend it to everyone. It’s a warm atmosphere. And there are so many research and international opportunities."