Margy Crowley

Lab Assistant III for the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences

For Margy Crowley, lab assistant III for the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, avocados are so much more than a tasty fruit — they’re her entire job.

“My lab works with avocado breeding. … Hass is the best-known avocado, but it is ripe only from January to June. What we want to do is to find an avocado that fills up the rest of the year,” Crowley says.

The method of avocado breeding starts off with planting thousands of trees in UCR’s orchard located in Irvine. Next, the seedlings are taken and grafted onto a root stock (Crowley has a root stock named after her) and these root stocks are then placed in different regions around the world to see how they grow according to different climates and environments. UCR’s orchard has more than 150 avocado varieties — all distinct in their seed shapes, sizes, textures and colors. Crowley’s office calendar shows a photo of a different avocado breed each month.

“When you plant an avocado seed, you don’t get the same plant, so you have to plant thousands of trees. What’s really surprising is you don’t get that many seedlings from a thousand seeds. You might get three or four that have all the rights: the right taste, the thin skin, the small seed and the right tree shape. It’s good to have all these varieties because you never know what is going to happen,” Crowley explains.

Crowley’s favorite part about her job is the last step of the avocado breeding process, the taste panel.

“We’ve been doing this for a year and a half. We see how these avocado plants have grown and we like it, but we want to see if the customer actually likes it. So we started doing a taste panel with selections that we’ve found,” says Crowley.

Aside from her lab work, Crowley is also active in the University Professional and Technical Employees union. She serves as the president of the organization, which she proudly represented by wearing a button that read, “UPTE: unity button for quality UC jobs.”

Even when she’s not working, Crowley cannot get away from avocados. In her free time, Crowley enjoys cooking.

“I make a lot of guacamole, and I like to put avocados on pizzas. My daughter puts them in scrambled eggs. Every once in awhile, I’ll do something wild like put it in a cake, but for the most part, we eat them raw on toast and in bagels. We’re sort of stuck [with avocados],” Crowley says with a chuckle. — Bethanie Le

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