Dr. Della Johnston, PhD

Director of Research, Development & Technology for Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada’s Harrow Research & Development Centre, the Ontario Development and Technology Transfer Office located in Guelph and the London Research & Development Centre which includes the Vineland research farm.

I was asked what motivated me to enter in the field of science. I’ve had a passion for science ever since I can remember. I was always curious about the natural world, particularly insects, reptiles and amphibians. I wasn’t interested in dolls or similar “girl toys” when I was young, I wanted to make my own salamanders, lizards and bugs! My parents indulged me in my passion and I was gifted with a “Creepy Crawlers Bug Maker”. Science fiction writing and television shows were also prominent in fostering my interest in science. My fascination with microbes and parasites was nurtured by excellent mentors during my undergraduate and graduate studies.
I received my B.Sc. in Honours Microbiology from the College of Biological Science and my Ph.D. in Pathology/Parasitology from the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph.
I joined the federal government in 2003 as a medical microbiologist with Health Canada where I was the Biotech lead for research projects dealing with the use of antibiotic resistance markers in genetically modified organisms, cytyotoxicity of Bacillus species and the use of animal models to assess bacterial cytotoxicity in humans.
In 2006, I led a team of scientists at Environment Canada, conducting risk assessments of biotech organisms. Later that year, I was seconded to Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) as the National Program Coordinator for Bioproducts & Bioprocesses where I was responsible for the management and coordination of genomics research programs within AAFC and was involved in the implementation of the Agricultural Bioproducts Innovation Program (ABIP).
2008 was the start of my career in Science Management and over the next five years I served as Director of various programs including Innovation (Agri-Science Clusters and Developing Innovative Agri-Science Projects) and Biodiversity and Bioresources.
Currently, I am responsible for over 200 staff members and the research conducted at the Harrow and London Research and Development Centres as well as the projects undertaken for the Ontario Development and Technology Transfer Office located in Guelph. I am Science & Technology Branch’s national lead for Horticulture and recently accepted the request to serve as the federal co-chair for the Horticulture Value Chain Roundtable. At the international level, I am currently leader of  the PROCINORTE Plant Health Task Force which is comprised of senior scientists in Canada, USA and Mexico.
I remain involved in a wide range of research, scientific evaluation and research management activities in a number of areas including genomics, biotechnology, microbiology and bioproducts and it is this diversity of research activities in agriculture that keeps me passionate about science.
I live in Kingsville, ON, with my husband Stu, our three children, three dogs and a pond full of koi.
My twitter handle is: @DrDellaJohnston