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Avian Scientist Helped Build World's Largest Poultry Industry

28 March 2014

AUSTRALIA - Trevor John Bagust BVSc, PhD had a remarkable, full and varied career of achievement in the poultry industry.

Born in Tauranga, New Zealand he took the route that New Zealanders did in the early 1960s if they wanted to become a veterinarian - study at one of the then two Australian veterinary schools, reports The Age

Trevor chose the University of Queensland, graduating in 1966 with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science. This was followed in 1970 by a PhD in animal virology at the same university.

Dr Bagust had two main phases to his professional career. The first was to develop and lead an avian diseases research program at CSIRO Division of Animal Health in Parkville, Victoria, where he acquired an international reputation as a poultry virologist.

The second was when he joined Melbourne University and shifted his focus towards postgraduate education in avian medicine Early in his employment at CSIRO Dr Bagust realised that to work with poultry viruses whether for research, exotic disease diagnosis or vaccine production, it was necessary to have a source of specified pathogen-free (SPF) poultry.

Together with colleague Graham Murray, they established and managed the National SPF Poultry Facility at Maribyrnong from 1977 to 1997.

Dr Bagust supervised a large CSIRO program of research into a number of virus diseases of economic importance to the Australian poultry industry. His work directly led to the eradication of leucosis from Australian commercial poultry and the commercialisation of the A20 vaccine strain of infectious laryngotracheitis virus, to name just two practical achievements.

In 1985 Dr Bagust was appointed Officer-in-Charge of CSIRO Animal Health Research Laboratory and between 1987 and 1989 was acting Chief of the CSIRO Division of Animal Health.

About the same time he was appointed Director of Australia-China Poultry Projects operated through AusAID. Under his leadership, China's national SPF poultry production facility at Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in northern China, the Poultry Diseases Diagnostic and Training Centre at Tianjin and the Beijing Laboratory Animals Research Centre were all established.

This bilateral development assistance project was a recognised success story that laid the foundations for the development of poultry vaccine manufacturing and diagnostic services as well as research into poultry disease; all underpinning China's modern intensive poultry industry, now the largest in the world. In 1997, Dr Bagust was honoured for this work by the award of the Kesteven Medal by the Australian Veterinary Association.

Throughout his career Trevor Bagust provided a valuable mentoring role, particularly for young scientists, including many from overseas. He hosted many distinguished visitors to the CSIRO and was tireless in promoting the achievements of avian disease research in Australia.

In 1996, after the closure of the CSIRO Animal Health Research Laboratory in Parkville, Dr Bagust moved to the Faculty of Veterinary Science, the University of Melbourne where he developed and taught a postgraduate course in avian health for Australian and international students.

From 2004 to 2010 he was pivotal in the development of Avian Health Online™, which provides specialist postgraduate veterinary education.

Dr Bagust authored some 70 peer-reviewed scientific articles and textbook chapters. He was a Life Member of the Australian Veterinary Association and the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists, and was an editor and member of the advisory board of Avian Pathology, the journal of the World Veterinary Poultry Association (WVPA).

In 2013 he was admitted as a foundation member of the WVPA Hall of Honour that "recognises poultry veterinarians and health scientists who made an outstanding contribution in the furtherance of poultry veterinary science". He was elected President of the WVPA in 2011, a position he was to continue until August 2015 but for his sudden death.

Dr Bagust had many interests outside of his professional life and was a person possessing boundless energy and enthusiasm. He was always passionate about causes he believed in. He is survived by his wife Joanne, daughters Fiona, Kathryn and Elizabeth, and grandchildren Jacob, Lachlan and Elise.

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