Dr Lucia (Lucy) Rivas is a senior scientist with ESR’s Food, Water and Biowaste group, and joined us in 2011.
Lucy predominately leads research projects for the Ministry for Primary Industries which spans a variety of food safety issues. Often these projects centre on microbiological surveys using conventional culture-based and molecular methods for the detection and isolation of different pathogens from foods or animal/feed sources.
As a result, Lucy has experience with a broad range of foodborne bacteria but has a particular interest in Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC), Yersinia spp., Listeria monocytogenes and Clostridium difficile.
Currently Lucy is interested in the use of next-generation sequencing technology to advance the way pathogens are tracked and characterised throughout the food chain. This rapidly evolving technology is providing a powerful tool to discriminate between bacterial isolates which helps to accurately identify sources of contamination of foods or human illness. Integrating the genomes of these pathogens can also identify targets of interest to improve detection within different foods as well as helping devise effective mitigation strategies to ultimately reduce foodborne disease as well as providing greater assurances to the New Zealand export industry. Lucy is also using the sequencing technologies to investigate the complex microbial community (microbiome) of raw milk in an effort to identify bacteria that cause spoilage issues in the dairy industry.
Lucy earned her BSc Applied Science from Queensland University of Technology and her honours and PhD through the University of Queensland where she undertook her research projects in food microbiology with CSIRO, Brisbane. Her honours involved investigating the prevalence of Arcobacter spp., in raw meat while her PhD investigated factors involved in the attachment and biofilm development of STEC on food surfaces. She also gained lots of experience with culturing different varieties of microbes whilst working as the assistant-curator at the Australia Collection of Microorganisms before and during her PhD.
After her studies, Lucy spent five years in Dublin Ireland at Teagasc as a research officer where she was involved in a project that evaluated the use of difference biocontrol agents such as bacteriophage, essential oil components and antimicrobial peptides to combat STEC in the meat chain.
Email Lucy: Lucia.Rivas@esr.cri.nz
Read about Lucy's work with Yersinia