His research demonstrated the species in question was in fact a highly specialised and interesting native species, Bactrocera opiliae. He then returned to University of Sydney in 1980 and completed a PhD on Competition among Tephritid Fruit Flies and then rejoined CSIRO in 1983 at the Australian Cotton Research Institute, Narrabri, in north western NSW.
During a 20 year career in Narrabri, Dr Fitt advanced to the level of Senior Principal Research Scientist before becoming the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Cotton Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) in 1999, also based at Narrabri. In 2004 he became the Deputy Chief of CSIRO Entomology, and relocated to Brisbane, then Deputy Chief of CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences in 2008, until being appointed Director of the CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship in 2012. With the formation of CSIRO Health and Biosecurity in 2014 he became Science Director for the new Business Unit. A position he holds today.
Dr Fitt’s research career has focussed broadly in agricultural sustainability with a focus on integrated pest management systems for Helicoverpa species, one of the most damaging pest complexes of Australian and global agriculture. His particular approach has been to understand the moth’s ecology as a foundation for more sustainable pest management. His research in insect movement, migration and host plant resistance provided a great foundation for the development and deployment of transgenic Bt cottons in Australia and the resistance management systems required to sustain this technology.
In the last ten years Dr Fitt has increasingly focussed on the research needs for biosecurity science for Australia and led efforts to protect Australia from invasive species and to address emerging challenges in global risk and infectious diseases. Through the Biosecurity Flagship and now the Health and Biosecurity Business Unit he has broadened applications to address the health challenges to Australia’s people, agricultural industries, environment and economy. The Biosecurity continuum spanning off shore and on shore risks provides a valuable context for the breadth of outcomes the CSIRO’s business in this sector.
Dr Fitt has published 185 refereed publications, contributed to more than 20 books, has 3114 citations and H index of 29.
He has held many other positions, including Board Director of the Cotton Catchment Communities CRC, Chair of an expert panel for the International Cotton Advisory Committee, Member Advisory Committee for the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund, Chair of the Science Advisory Body of the OECD Cooperative Research Program in Sustainable Agriculture. He has held appointments as Adjunct Professor at both the University of New England and the University of Sydney.