Engineering Resilience Workshop

Invitational Committee

Owain Edwards, Ryan Phelan, Kent Redford, Dan Tompkins, and Stewart Brand

Hosts

Please click each name to see biography

Owain Edwards

Owain Edwards photo Revive & Restore

Group Leader, Environmental and Synthetic Genomics 
Domain Leader, Environment and Biocontrol, Synthetic Biology Future Platform
Centre for Environment and Life Sciences
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

Dr. Owain Edwards obtained a BSc in Zoology from the University of Guelph in 1986. He was awarded his MSc in Entomology from the University of Missouri‐Columbia, USA, in 1989 and his PhD in Entomology from the University of California, Berkeley, USA, in 1994. Prior to joining CSIRO in 1998, Dr Edwards undertook postdoctoral studies at the University of Florida and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study ecological and genetic factors controlling the establishment of natural enemies in classical biological control programs.

Dr. Edwards’ research at CSIRO focused initially on the molecular basis of aphid-host plant interactions, then expanded to investigate molecular interactions of aphids with their environment more broadly – including epigenetic regulation of aphid polyphenism. Dr. Edwards continues to serve on the board of the International Aphid Genomics Consortium, and on advisory committees to many other invertebrate genomics consortia.  Building on his expertise in invertebrate genomics he leads a CSIRO research group in Environmental Genomics, which includes a research team focused on genetic pest control technologies. Most recently, Dr Edwards was given a leadership role in the development of CSIRO’s new Future Science Platform in Synthetic Biology. Within this platform, Dr Edwards oversees projects delivering environmental outcomes including gene drives for biological control, and engineering resistance/resilience into threatened ecosystems.

Ryan Phelan

Ryan Phelan photo Revive & Restore

Executive Director
Co-founder
Revive & Restore

Together with Stewart Brand, I co-founded Revive & Restore in 2012. I serve as the Executive Director of the organization, advancing its mission to enhance biodiversity through the genetic rescue of endangered and extinct species. I work with some of the world’s leading molecular biologists, conservation biologists, and conservation organizations to develop pioneering genetic rescue projects using cutting-edge genomic technologies to solve previously intractable wildlife conservation challengers such as those posed by inbreeding, exotic diseases, climate change, and destructive invasive species.

Since founding Revive & Restore, I have brought together diverse groups of scientists and conservation practitioners in a series of meetings and workshops to develop tangible applications of these technologies in conservation and otherwise advance the field of genetic rescue. The first of these was the 2013 TedXDeExtinction event, which explored the idea of reviving extinct species and re-introducing them to the wild. In 2015, Revive & Restore hosted the “New Genomic Solutions for Conservation” workshop, out of which a project (now underway) to cure the herpes virus in Asian elephants was conceptualized. Most recently, I organized several workshops on genetic rescue at the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress, focusing on invasive diseases in Hawaii such as Rapid Ohi’a Death and avian malaria.

I am a serial entrepreneur, active in both the for-profit and nonprofit worlds. Before starting Revive & Restore, I was the founder and CEO of two innovative healthcare companies: DNA Direct, the first medical genetics company to focus on bringing personalized medicine to the consumer, and Direct Medical Knowledge, the first online in-depth consumer health web site unique for its content depth and innovative search interface.

Workshop Participants

Please click each name to see biography

Climate Resilience Working Group

Madeleine van Oppen

Madeleine was originally trained in marine ecology, developed as an ecological geneticist post-BSc and begun to study corals in 1997 and coral-associated microorganism in 2000. Her microbial studies were initially limited to the dinoflagellate endosymbionts of corals, but in the past 5+ years she has ventured into the study of other microbial groups that inhabit corals, including prokaryotes, fungi and viruses. Madeleine’s current research focuses on the fields of engineering coral climate resilience and coral reef restoration, in particular the development of coral stock better able to cope with disturbed environments and predicted future ocean conditions. This includes probiotics, experimental evolution and genetic engineering of microbes associated with corals, selective breeding of corals, and the conditioning (i.e., transgenerational acclimation) of corals to predicted future ocean conditions (i.e., assisted evolution).

Madeleine completed her PhD on the molecular biogeography of seaweeds at the University of Groningen (Netherlands) in 1995, and subsequently conducted postdoctoral positions at the University of East Anglia, UK (Speciation in Cichlid fishes), and James Cook University, Australia (Molecular relationships in the coral genus Acropora, and Genetic diversity and specificity of acroporid coral-dinoflagellate symbioses). In 2001, she took up a position at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Townsville. She commenced as a professor in the School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne, in 2015, while still maintaining a part-time position as Senior Principal Research Scientist at AIMS.

Manuel Aranda

Assistant Professor
Coral Symbiomics Lab
Red Sea Research Center
King Abdullah University of Science & Technology

Dr. Manuel Aranda received his PhD from the University of Cologne in 2006 where he studied the evolution of gene regulatory networks in the group of Prof. Diethard Tautz. During his subsequent postdoc he started working on coral ecology using genomic and functional genetic approaches. He is Assistant Professor at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology where his group studies the molecular underpinnings of the cnidarian-algal symbiosis and its environmental stress related breakdown using functional genomics approaches. Furthermore, he is interested in understanding the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms through which corals can adapt or acclimate to extreme environments and climate change.

Line K. Bay

Research Scientist
Australian Institute of Marine Science

My research integrates physiological, genetic and genomic data to understand how corals interact with their environment. In particular, I am interested in the rates and mechanisms of physiological acclimatisation, and the potential for genetic adaptation in response to climate and ocean change.

Patrick Buerger

Postdoctoral Fellow
Synthetic Biology Platform
Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
University of Melbourne

Patrick Buerger is a postdoctoral fellow with CSIRO’s Synthetic Biology Platform and the University of Melbourne. His research focuses on climate change and anthropogenic impacts on coral reef ecosystems. Using genetic engineering and a range of Omics technologies, he investigates the thermal resilience of algal symbionts in corals. Patrick completed his PhD in Marine Science at James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. His work highlighted viruses as potential contributors to and mitigators of the coral black band disease and white syndrome. Prior to his research in Australia, Patrick obtained a BSc in General Biology at the Ruhr-University of Bochum and an MSc in Tropical Marine Ecology at the University of Bremen. Patrick is passionate about innovative technologies that improve environmental conservation and science communication.

John Oakeshott

CSIRO Fellow
Land and Water Flagship
Commonwealth Science & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

John Oakeshott has worked for CSIRO for 30 years, where he is now a Chief Scientist. One of his major research interests lies in the molecular basis of evolutionary change. In this, he has mainly worked on toxicological phenotypes – insecticide resistance in insects and the detoxification and/or utilisation of various xenobiotics in bacteria, but over the last few years he has also worked on climatic stress tolerances in various Drosophila species.  A second major research interest has been in agricultural and environmental biotechnologies, ranging from insert genes for various input traits in transgenic crops through to various biological insecticides and bioremediation technologies.  His expertise lies in biochemical, molecular and population genetics and he also has considerable experience in various of the ‘omics, particularly in microbial and insect systems.  JO served on the Australian federal government’s major gene technology regulatory committees (scientific subcommittees of GMAC and OGTR) for over a decade, participating in decisions about contained work, planned releases and commercial releases of a variety of GM organisms. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technological Science and Engineering.

Mathieu Pernice

Research Fellow and Core Member
Climate Change Cluster
University of Technology Sydney

Mathieu grew up in Corsica (France) and completed his PhD on Bacterial symbioses in Nautiloids at the University Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris (2006). In 2008, he was awarded by a Marie Curie outgoing postdoctoral fellowship and moved to Australia (University of Queensland, Brisbane) to study the influence of environmental stresses in corals and their dinoflagellate symbionts. His research was initially focused on gene expression but in the past 5 years, he has pioneered the use of stable isotope-based metabolomics to study functional diversity within microbial symbionts and photosynthetic microalgae at a single cell level. Since January 2015, in recognition to his role leading molecular research at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), he was appointed as a deputy team leader.  He is currently guiding several research programs at UTS including Seagrass health and Aquaculture but also a wider research program, the Algal Biofactory, which explores the potential for photosynthetic microalgae to be modified to carry out new functions, such as the production of pharmaceutical compounds.

Nicole Webster (Declined Last Minute)

[last minute decline]

Principal Research Scientist
Australian Institute of Marine Science

Marine Microbial Ecologist / Group Leader
Australian Centre for Ecogenomics at the University of Queensland

Nicole obtained her PhD in 2001 and subsequently undertook postdoctoral research at the University of Canterbury / Gateway Antarctica where she investigated the utility of microbial symbionts as biomarkers for environmental stress in the Antarctic marine ecosystem and explored the role of microorganisms as inducers for settlement and metamorphosis of coral reef invertebrates. Nicole currently holds a joint appointment as principal research scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Australian Centre for Ecogenomics at the University of Queensland.  Nicole merges experimental and field based ecological approaches with omic technologies to understand multiple facets of coral reef microbiology. Her current research primarily focuses on determining how microorganisms contribute to reef ecosystem health and how microbial symbioses contribute to environmental acclimatisation and adaptation in reef invertebrates.

Invasive Species Working Group

Tanja Strive

Project Leader/Team Leader
Host-Pathogens Interactions Research Team
Biosecurity Flagship
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

I am a molecular virologist by training and have worked on various ways (lethal and non-lethal) of controlling various Australian invasive animals (foxes, mice, rabbits, and some cane toads) for the past 15 years. Early on, this involved investigations on how to deliver delivering fertility controls with attenuated GMO viruses. In recent years my team’s focus has been on understanding and improving viral biocontrol of rabbits working very closely with the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IACRC) where I have been a joint Theme Leader of the rabbit biocontrol program. We were heavily involved in a large collaborative IACRC project developing the next viral biocontrol for rabbits and releasing this nationwide earlier this year, bringing with it all the anticipated (and planned for) issues around social licence/public acceptability, plus a few unexpected ones.

 

 

 

Mark Tizard

Project Leader, Senior Research Scientist, Genome Engineering
Health & Biosecurity
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

Mark began his career in the UK in the early days of gene cloning as part of the team that was first to identify and produce the malaria merozoite major surface antigen for vaccine studies (Holder et al, 1984, Nature).

He came to Australia and CSIRO following the impact of postdoctoral work in mycobacterial research with relevance to Australia (in Johne’s disease) in which he identified, characterized and developed a unique marker for the disease causing agent. Changes in CSIRO gave him the opportunity to explore the emerging field of RNA interference and microRNA biology. His group was the first to catalogue the microRNA repertoire of the chicken (Glasov et al, 2009, Genome Research), a model system in which he later developed a novel approach for RNAi delivery by minimal transgene. This involved developing and applying tools from another emerging field – gene editing. Improvements in these techniques from his lab have led to very efficient methods to edit the chicken genome, one spin off of which is a new method to remove males from the egg-layer industry without having to hatch and cull day-old chicks (the current practice) – though it is yet to go into industry practice. With the advent of CRISPR/Cas9 technology the ease of applying gene editing in poultry lead Mark to broaden his horizons and to take a look at how these techniques might be applied in the genetic control of vertebrate pests.

His current interests are in gene editing in the cane toad and exploring the possibilities of the new gene drive technology for fish and rodent pests.

Omar Akbari

Assistant Professor
Department of Entomology

Institute for Integrative Genome Biology
Center for Disease Vector Research (CDVR)
University of California, Riverside

Omar Akbari is an Assistant professor in the department of Entomology at the University of California, Riverside. He earned his Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Nevada, Reno where he studied the role cis-regulatory modules play in cellular identity along the anterio-posterior axis in developing Drosophila melanogaster embryos. Following his graduate work, he joined the laboratory of professor Bruce A. Hay at the California Institute of Technology as a post-doctoral scholar to innovate synthetic biology of disease vectors. Today his research aims to develop synthetic biology inspired solutions to control the fate of wild animal populations.

Akbari Lab

Stewart Brand

Co-founder, Revive & Restore
Co-founder / President, The Long Now Foundation

Stewart Brand is co-founder of Revive & Restore and co-founder and president of The Long Now Foundation, within which Revive & Restore was incubated for four years.  The idea of bringing cutting-edge biotech to conservation first went public with Stewart’s TED talk in 2013, “The Dawn of De-extinction.”

Stewart has been an ardent conservationist since he was ten.  That led him to get his degree in Biology from Stanford in 1960, focussing on ecology and evolution. The Whole Earth Catalog, which he created and ran from 1968 to 1984, purveyed a biological perspective on everything.

Besides earning a National Book Award in 1972, the Catalog and its later philanthropy became one of the founding pillars of what is called the Modern Environmental Movement—as chronicled in the book Counterculture Green: The Whole Earth Catalog and American Environmentalism (2007 by Andrew Kirk), and in the feature film “Earth Days” (2009 by Robert Stone).  Recently, in an effort to inspire environmentalists to follow science more than ideology, he wrote Whole Earth Discipline: The Rise of Ecopragmatism (2010, Penguin).  The book has two chapters on the environmental benefits of biotechnology.  In 2015 Stewart was one of the authors of an influential essay, “An Ecomodernist Manifesto.”

He also co-founded The WELL (1984) and Global Business Network (1985).

Margaret Byrne

Executive Director
Science and Conservation Division
Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (Australia)

Dr. Margaret Byrne is Executive Director, Science and Conservation Division in the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions where she is responsible for the integration of science, policy and on-ground management for biodiversity conservation. Margaret has a strong interest in effective leadership and management and sees effective partnerships across organisations as critical to the achievement of conservation goals. She is also recognised as a leading biological scientist in Australia with over 200 refereed publications, and uses this to affect a strong evidence based approach to biodiversity conservation in Western Australia. Margaret obtained a PhD from The University of Western Australia and was a Post-doctoral Fellow at CSIRO in Canberra before returning to Perth to develop and manage a conservation genetics program in the then Department of Conservation and Land Management. She remains active in conservation genetics in conjunction with taking on a science management role.

Karl Campbell

Project Director
Island Conservation 

Karl has a Ph.D. from the University of Queensland, Australia. As part of his doctoral work, he developed advanced Judas goat methods involving sterilization, pregnancy termination and hormone therapy, which were applied to increase the effectiveness of Judas goats in large scale campaigns he was managing in the Galapagos Islands. Karl has worked for 20 years on some of the world’s largest and most complex eradication campaigns of invasive mammals, preventing the extinction of hundreds of species. His role typically involves identifying sites and partners, detailing a strategy, plan and budget, fundraising, managing field operations and refining strategies as required. Scalability and cost effectiveness are two key philosophies that he takes to each project. In 2011, Karl initiated Island Conservation’s Innovation Program and is the organization’s lead for the Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents partnership. He has worked on restoration projects in over a dozen countries and has published over 50 scientific and popular articles.

Larry Clark

Director
National Wildlife Research Center
Wildlife Services
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture

Dr. Larry Clark is the Director of the National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC). Larry has degrees from the University of Maryland (BS), Northern Arizona University (MS), and the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D.). Larry’s early research focused on the physiology and physics of temperature regulation in animals and the evolution of parental care. Subsequently, Larry was a Public Health Service fellow at the Monell Chemical Senses Center and later joined their faculty. Monell is the world’s leading research center in chemical sensory biology. While at Monell, Larry’s research focused on the use of plant-derived biopharmaceuticals by wild animals, the study of animal pain perception, molecular modeling of chemical irritants, and the design of animal repellents. In 1990 Larry joined the USDA’s National Wildlife Research Center to work on the development of animal repellents and wildlife disease issues. In 2005 Larry was appointed as the Assistant Director of the NWRC, and in 2008 was appointed as the Director of the NWRC. Larry has over 150 scientific publications, grants from NIH, NSF, DOD, and private research foundations, and has served as an adjunct faculty at Rutgers University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Colorado State University. Larry is the recipient of the Kerry-Manheimer Award for career achievements in the chemosensory sciences. He serves as the Scientific Integrity Officer and Technology Transfer Officer for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to the USDA. His recent research interests include sensory biology, quantitative structure activity relationships of chemical irritant molecules, the epizoology and management of wildlife diseases that impact domestic animal and human health, and transfer of scientific findings into science and management policy.

Caitlin Cooper

Postdoctoral Fellow
Managing Invasive Species and Disease Impacts program
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

I am currently a postdoc at CSIRO in Health and Biosecurity working in the Managing Invasive Species and Disease Impacts program. I completed my bachelor’s in Animal Science at the University of Vermont in 2009. I then earned my PhD in Animal Biology at the University of California, Davis in 2013 with a dissertation on the effects of consumption of milk containing recombinant human lactoferrin and lysozyme on porcine immunity in models of health and disease. In 2014 I joined CSIRO to work at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory on a postdoctoral project aimed at using genetic engineering in the chicken to prevent the spread of food borne illnesses. During that time I generated two new lines of transgenic chickens and developed a novel method for delivering gene editing components in birds. In 2017 I started my current postdoctoral project which is directed at applying gene editing tools such as CRISPR/Cas9 to the cane toad to enable new strategies for genetic based invasive species mitigation. Throughout my research career I have concentrated on genetic engineering in non-laboratory animals and have had the opportunity to work with a number of different species including cows, goats, pigs, chickens, quails, and now the cane toad.

John Kanowski

National Conservation and Science Manager
Australian Wildlife Conservancy

I am a conservation and restoration ecologist with over 25 years’ experience in Australian ecosystems. My PhD was in the ecology of rainforest possums and tree-kangaroos; I subsequently worked as a postdoc looking at the biodiversity values of rainforest restoration. For most of the last decade, I have worked as an ecologist for Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC), a not-for-profit that owns/ manages 4 M ha across Australia. I currently run AWC’s national science program. AWC aims to implement effective on-ground conservation, built around a robust evidence base. We have a major focus on the conservation of ‘critical weight range’ mammals, which in Australia are threatened by introduced predators – foxes and cats.

Andy Sheppard

Research Director
Managing Invasive Species & Diseases program
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

Dr. Sheppard is a CSIRO Research Director of the Managing Invasive Species & Diseases program in CSIRO Health and Biosecurity. This research program develops research solutions for the therapeutic prevention and on the ground management of invasive species and diseases of National significance to Australia based on animal, plant and environmental National biosecurity priorities and provides key national capability in vertebrate, invertebrate and weed biological control, disease management and animal gene technologies leads five large Rural R&D for Profit projects in weed, rabbit and dung biological control and prevention of emergency diseases and Queensland fruit fly area wide management. He leads international collaborative research in Australia, USA, Europe and South Africa on the ecological management of priority weeds and pests principally using biological control. His recent research interests include risk and decision analysis, environmental impacts of novel non-food crops, and carbon-biodiversity tradeoffs. He has co-edited two books and has over 100 book chapter and international journal publications.

Paul Thomas

Professor of Biochemistry
Director of the SA Genome Editing Facility
University of Adelaide, Australia.

Prof Thomas completed his Ph.D. at the University of Adelaide in 1994. He then moved to the National Institute for Medical Research (London) and completed a 3 year post-doctoral position with the late Dr. Rosa Beddington, who was a world-leader in the field of developmental biology. In 1998, he retuned to Australia with the support of a NHMRC Florey Fellowship and established an independent research group at the Murdoch Institute in Melbourne.  In 2006, he moved to the University of Adelaide and in 2008 was awarded a prestigious Pfizer Australia Research Fellowship. In 2014 he was promoted to full Professor and established the SA Genome Editing facility.

His lab focuses on the genetics of brain development in mice and humans and in recent years has developed considerable expertise in generation of mouse models using CRISPR/CAS9 genome editing system. In 2016 he joined the Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents (GBIRd) International consortium and is supported by the USA Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop Gene Drive technology in mice.

Andrew Weeks

Senior Research Fellow
The University of Melbourne

Andrew is a population geneticist with broad experience applying genetic principles in invertebrate pest control and conservation. His current research interests are centered on translocations as a way of genetically rescuing populations from inbreeding, losses of genetic variation and the build up of slightly deleterious alleles. His interests are also in developing translocation strategies that aim to enhance a population’s ability to adapt under climate change. Andrew actively participates in several threatened species recovery teams in Australia, where he has developed research programs that look at hybridization of genetically differentiated populations as a way of reinvigorating the genetics of populations that have undergone large declines in numbers. In this vain, Andrew led a successful research program that undertook the first genetic rescue of a wild population in Australia. Andrew has developed similar programs for a number of different Australian threatened species.

Disease Resistance Working Group

Michelle Baker

Senior Research Scientist & Group Leader
Australian Animal Health Laboratory
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

Dr. Michelle Baker is a Senior Research Scientist and Group leader at CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong, Vic. She has a PhD from the University of Queensland and postdoctoral training at the University of New Mexico in the US. Dr Baker’s current research is in the area of antiviral immunity, in particular, the innate immune response of reservoir hosts including bats which are hosts to a variety of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases that affect humans. Her research team has made significant progress in characterizing the immune system of the model bat species, the Australian black flying fox and the responses of bat cells to infection with highly pathogenic viruses including the paramyxovirus, Hendra virus and the filovirus, Ebola virus.

Luke Barrett

Senior Research Scientist
Agriculture and Food
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

I am a senior research scientist with CSIRO Agriculture and Food, based in Canberra, Australia. My research focuses on the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of plant-microbe interactions in agricultural and natural systems. I am particularly interested in the processes driving the emergence and maintenance of adaptive variation within interacting plant and symbiont populations, and in the ecological consequences of that diversity. Current projects include research on pathogen evolution and resistance durability in agricultural crops, and the use of gene-drives to control agricultural pests. I received my BSc (Honours)/BA from Curtin University in 2003 and my PhD from the Australian National University in 2008. I undertook a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Chicago in 2008 prior to receiving an Australian Research Council postdoctoral fellowship in 2010.

Tim Doran

Group Leader
Disease Mitigation Technologies
Health & Biosecurity
Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisaiton

Tim is Group Leader for Disease Mitigation Technologies in the CSIRO Health & Biosecurity Business Unit. Tim is a genetic engineer with expertise in the field of RNAi, transgenic animal research and precision breeding technologies. As part of a project to develop avian influenza resilient chickens, he led the development of the first ever transgenic broiler (meat) chicken in the world. Aligned to this project, Tim helped to pioneer the development of a new simpler method to develop transgenic birds (Tyack et al 2013). This method has revolutionised the way that transgenic birds can be produced and is already being adopted internationally by researchers for the development of new applications for avian genome engineering in biotechnology, agriculture, developmental biology and conservation research.

In collaboration with Dr Craig Smith at Monash University, Tim used RNAi technology to solve the long standing mystery of sex determination in birds and this research was published in Nature (Smith et al 2009). The impact of this scientific breakthrough was recognized by the Poultry industry as a way of preventing the culling of male chicks in the egg laying industry and addressing the major ethical and commercial issues that this practice creates for the industry.

Kevin Esvelt

Assistant Professor
Media Lab
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Kevin M. Esvelt is an assistant professor of the MIT Media Lab, where he leads the Sculpting Evolution Group in exploring evolutionary and ecological engineering.

Esvelt received his Ph.D. for inventing a synthetic microbial ecosystem to rapidly evolve useful biomolecules, and subsequently helped pioneer the development of CRISPR, a powerful new method of genome engineering.

In 2013, he was the first to identify the potential for CRISPR “gene drive” systems to alter wild populations of organisms. Recognizing the implications, he and his colleagues called for open discussion and safeguards before demonstrating gene drive in the laboratory.

At MIT, Esvelt’s laboratory develops safer “daisy drives” that only spread locally, ways of restoring populations to their original genetics, and methods of preventing Lyme disease. An outspoken advocate of open science to accelerate discovery and improve safety, he seeks to use gene drive as a catalyst to reform the scientific ecosystem.

Tiffany Kosch

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
One Health Research Group
College of Public Health, Medical, and Veterinary Sciences
James Cook University

I am a postdoctoral fellow at James Cook University where I am investigating the genetic basis of immunity to the amphibian fungal disease chytridiomycosis in the southern corroboree frog, an endangered amphibian endemic to the Snowy Mountains of Australia. My goal is to increase chytrid resistance in corroboree frogs and thus improve the success of the reintroduction program by increasing the prevalence of disease resistance genes in the captive population.

I received my PhD in 2012 from East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, USA where I studied the distribution of chytridiomycosis in Peruvian amphibians and optimized methods for detecting the disease. Before coming to JCU, I worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Seoul National University in Seoul, South Korea where I studied chytridiomycosis in Korea along with investigating virulence differences among strains and the influence of chytridiomycosis on MHC Class IIB variation in wild populations of tungara frogs from Panama.

Dan Lindner

Research Plant Pathologist
Center for Forest Mycology Research
US Forest Service

Daniel Lindner is a research mycologist at the US Forest Service’s Center for Forest Mycology Research. His research aims to understand how human actions affect fungal communities, and how these changes can in turn affect larger ecosystem processes. Daniel’s research originally focused on forest management techniques and their influenes on fungal communities and carbon sequestration, but has shifted toward understanding the interactions between fungi (both pathogenic and beneficial) and wildlife. Daniel has studied the relationships between fungi and the federally endangered Red Cockaded Woodpecker, as well the interactions between insectivorous bats and the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which causes the devastating disease known as White-Nose Syndrome of bats. Since 2007, Daniel has worked on molecular detection of P. destructans in environmental samples, genome sequencing and comparative genomics of P. destructans and near relatives, as well as novel control stratiegies for P. destructans, including attempts at gene silencing of potential virulence factors.

Ben Novak

Lead Researcher/Genetic Rescue Scientist
Revive & Restore

PhD Candidate
Monash University / Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

For the past four years, Ben has helped shape Revive & Restore’s genetic rescue efforts and led our flagship project, The Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback. In this role, he coordinates collaborators and partners to accomplish the end goal of restoring the ecology of the Passenger Pigeon to eastern North American forests.

Since taking on the project in 2012, he has used his training in ecology and ancient DNA laboratory work to contribute hands on to sequencing the Passenger Pigeon’s genome and study important aspects of the species’ ecological niche vital to its restoration.

Currently, Ben is completing his Ph.D program at Monash University. There, he has begun genetically engineering Domestic Rock Pigeons as a precursor to Passenger Pigeon de-extinction engineering and genetic rescue of altricial (parent-raised) birds. His mission in leading the Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback is that our program sets the standards for de-extinction protocols and considerations from the lab to the field.

Ben graduated from Montana State University studying Ecology and Evolution (2005), specializing in paleontology, genetics, ecology and ornithology. He later trained in paleogenomics laboratory protocols at the McMaster Ancient DNA Centre under Dr. Hendrik Poinar, exploring DNA extraction and sequencing of Mastodon fossils (2010-2012). It was at this laboratory that he began his first studies of passenger pigeon genomics, which later contributed to his masters thesis (2016) at the University of California Santa Cruz with Dr. Beth Shapiro.

Oliver Ryder

Director of Genetics
Institute for Conservation Research
San Diego Zoo

Oliver A. Ryder is Director of Genetics at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. His laboratory group works in the areas of molecular genetics, cytogenetics, cell culture, and tissue culture cryobanking. He directs the Frozen Zoo® project, a unique resource of cell cultures that has made notable scientific contributions in the field of conservation and other biological disciplines. He is a co-founder of the Genome10K project to produce high quality genome assemblies from 10,000 vertebrate species.

Dr. Ryder is a geneticist with broad background and training. He receive a BA in biology from the UC Riverside, and a PhD from UC San Diego. He holds a position of Adjunct Professor in the Division of Biology at the University of California, San Diego. He also holds adjunct faculty positions at San Diego State University and the University of California, Riverside.

His professional career has been devoted to developing and applying genetic research methods in support of endangered species conservation efforts for species held in the Zoo and wild populations. His TEDx talk on YouTube introduced his current project on genetic rescue of the northern white rhinoceros.

David Schneider

Principal Investigator, David S. Schneider Lab
Professor, Microbiology and Immunology Department
Stanford University

My group studies resilience to infections. We want to understand the elasticity of the physiological response to infection and take two sorts of measurements to do this. First, we want to understand how far physiology will stretch when faced with series of different doses of stressors. We call this “disease tolerance” when the stressor is microbe load, and “resilience” when we are speaking more generally. Second, we want to understand how far we can stretch our physiology until it snaps, leading to a chronic condition or death. We mainly work on two systems. First, we study fruit flies infected with bacteria, fungi, and viruses. This lets us use large numbers of animals to test our models. We also study mice suffering from a model malaria caused by Plasmodium chabaudi. Here we are looking at the circulating immune cells, cytokines and metabolome as well as gross physiological markers to finely map the progression and resolution of the disease. Our overarching goal is to come up with simple and inexpensive methods of improving outcomes from all infections, without necessarily changing the rate we clear pathogens.

David S. Schneider Lab

Lee Skerratt

Senior Research Fellow and Team Leader
One Health Research Group
James Cook University

Lee is a wildlife epidemiologist and leads the One Health Research Group of senior and postdoctoral scientists and PhD students at James Cook University (JCU). He works in the fields of wildlife epidemiology, vector ecology, and public health. He has studied a variety of wildlife health systems in different parts of the world addressing the problems of wildlife diseases impacting human and domestic animal health such as avian influenza, surra, Australian bat lyssavirus and Hendra virus and biodiversity including chytridiomycosis, sarcoptic mange and adenoviruses. Some of his recent work has demonstrated that the spread of the amphibian chytrid fungus has caused the global decline and extinction of frogs (Skerratt et al. 2007) which was recently acknowledged by the World Organisation for Animal Health when they made it a notifiable disease.  His expertise lies in best practice for surveillance and determining the causes and control of wildlife disease.  He obtained his PhD in wildlife health in 2001 and veterinary and animal science degrees in 1994 from the University of Melbourne. Prior to joining JCU he was a research fellow at the University of Wisconsin and the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin. He provides advice on managing wildlife health to State, National and International governmental organisations.

Stakeholder Engagement Working Group

Kent Redford

Principal
Archipelago Consuliting

Kent H. Redford is Principal at Archipelago Consulting established in 2012 and based in Portland, Maine, USA. Archipelago Consulting was designed to help individuals and organizations improve their practice of conservation and has worked with the Global Environment Facility, U.S. National Park Service, Moore Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Packard Foundation and the American Zoo and Aquarium Association amongst others. Prior to Archipelago Consulting Kent spent 14 years at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in New York. Previously he spent five years as head of Science and Stewardship in The Nature Conservancy’s Latin American Division. He started his career with a decade on the faculty at University of Florida where he co-founded the Program for Studies in Tropical Conservation and the Tropical Conservation and Development Programs. He received his Ph.D. in Biology from Harvard University and has written numerous articles and books on synthetic biology and conservation, national parks, local peoples, conservation, and wildlife. He has organized and co-organized four meetings bringing together conservation biologists and synthetic biologists to discuss the future of nature in an increasingly synthetic world.

Helen Cook

Communications & Engagement Adviser
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

Graduating as a graphic designer in the UK my first real paying job was in the city of London producing typographical annual reports for finance institutes (strangely satisfying – for a short time).

The advertising industry was much more appealing, it was the ’80s. So, copywriting led to travel writing and publishing (my own travel guides) and a move to the other side of the world; where I then travelled further and communicated and engaged with audiences in the arts, tourism, infrastructure and not-for-profit sectors. And then along came science.

For the best part of the past decade I have been talking, and walking the talk, of Biological Control in mosquitoes and novel ways to eliminate dengue. That journey began in far north Queensland and then took me north to Vietnam and Indonesia, south to Brazil and Colombia and then back to beautiful northern Queensland via Singapore.

Having worked in communications and engagement roles with the Eliminate Dengue research program from 2008-2015 I am now working with CSIRO and Verily (a Google affiliate) to roll out ‘Debug Innisfail’ while consulting to the National Environment Agency of Singapore on the Wolbachia SIT project.

Jason Delborne

Associate Professor of Science, Policy, and Society
Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources/
Genetic Engineering and Society Center
North Carolina State University

Jason A. Delborne, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Science, Policy, and Society in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources and the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC, U.S.A.). Jason’s research has focused on highly politicized scientific controversies, such as agricultural biotechnology, nanotechnology, biofuels, and climate change. Drawing upon the highly interdisciplinary field of Science, Technology, and Society (STS), he engages various qualitative research methodologies to ask questions about how policymakers and members of the public interface with controversial science. Last year he served on the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee on gene drive research, which produced the report, Gene Drives on the Horizon: Advancing Science, Navigating Uncertainty, and Aligning Research with Public Values (2016). His current projects include studies of the genetically modified American chestnut tree, gene drive mice for eradication of invasive species, genetic pest management in agriculture, and environmental impacts of synthetic biology.

Mike Dunlop

Senior Research Scientist
Land and Water Flagship
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

Dr. Michael Dunlop works at the intersection between the social, institutional and biophysical dimensions of managing the impacts of climate change. Mike has a background in physics and ecology, and has evolved into an “integration scientist”, with people now his chosen study organism.

He focusses on helping policymakers and managers understand how future environmental and ecological changes, driven by climate change, affect their current decision making. He has worked with decision makers in national, state and local governments, NRM bodies and NGOs in Australia and globally who have been tasked with the challenges of conserving biodiversity, sustaining ecosystem-based livelihoods, managing coastal development and planning for natural disasters. His practice involves developing concepts and processes to help organisations adapt their current management and strategies so they systematically build their capacity, and that of their stakeholders, to accommodate significant environmental and ecological change in the future.

Research Interests

  • How values, rules and knowledge change and interact to shape available decision options
  • Adaptation to transformational climate change
  • The factors that constrain and enable the ways that managers and decision makers respond to future climate change
  • How people value biodiversity

Thomas Malcolm

Biosecurity Officer
Waikato Regional Council

My name is Thomas and I have multiple roles here in New Zealand. Currently, I am a Biosecurity officer for Waikato Regional Council managing the Marine Biosecurity programme and the Wallaby programme (Yes – unfortunately wallabies are an issue here).

I am a member of the Kāhui Māori; an advisory board to the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge (BHNSC). The BHNSC aims to enhance and restore New Zealand’s land-based and freshwater ecosystems – on the conservation estate or in private ownership – by deepening the understanding of which species are present, and seeking science-based solutions to dealing with threats: pest animals and insects, weeds, pathogens, and climate change. The BHNSC consolidate and focus research happening in these areas across New Zealand.

I am also on the executive committee for Te Tira Whakamātaki – Māori Biosecurity Network; who provide a link between Government and Māori (indigenous people of NZ). Lastly, I am the Environmental Manager for my tribe – Ngāti Tarāwhai.

Aditi Mankad

Senior Research Scientist and Team Leader
Adaptive Urban & Social Systems Program
Land & Water
Commonwealth Industrial and Scientific Research Organisation

Aditi is a Senior Research Scientist and Team Leader with the Adaptive Urban & Social Systems Program within CSIRO Land & Water. Aditi leads a team of scientists focused on Agricultural Innovation & Biosecurity, based in Brisbane. Aditi trained in sport, exercise & health psychology and thus has core expertise in psychological/behavioural issues around motivation, perception and behaviour change.

Aditi has been with CSIRO for 8 years and worked in several interdisciplinary teams comprising social, economic and biophysical scientists, as well as representatives from government agencies and peak industry bodies. Her current research interests are aligned with understanding public attitudes and perceptions of innovative technologies such as biotechnology, and the associated psychological drivers of acceptance.

Aditi’s current portfolio comprises research on psychosocial issues around public risk perceptions of biosecurity threats, attitudes towards pest biocontrol, behavioural adoption of biosecurity practices, and community wellbeing & social resilience in the context of a biosecurity incursion.

Chris McKay

Communications Advisor
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

Chris is a Communications Advisor at CSIRO, supporting research groups within CSIRO Land & Water to communicate and promote their research capabilities and results. Specific research areas he works with include synthetic biology, biodiversity and ecosystems, Indigenous engagement, and water resource management, among others. Before starting with CSIRO in 2012, Chris completed a Master of Science Communication at the Australian National University, and before that worked for a few years with the Australian Government in its environment and agriculture departments. His undergraduate degree was in Biotechnology.

Dan Tompkins

Portfolio Leader
Landcare Research, New Zealand

Dan leads the Managing Invasive portfolio at Landcare Research, New Zealand, providing oversight and direction for a $15m p.a. body of work. He also leads research strategy development for the ‘Predator Free 2050’ initiative. In his own work, Dan specializes in the ecology and management of pests and diseases. Past outcomes include showing how (i) native red squirrel decline in the UK is driven by a viral pathogen transmitted from the invasive grey squirrel, (ii) allowing bird species to hybridize can improve the immune-competence of island endemics, (iv) orally-delivered live microbial vaccines can protect wildlife against natural disease challenge (bovine tuberculosis in the brushtail possum), (v) interactions between parasites and herbicides cause developmental malformations in native New Zealand fish, (vi) management of individual pest species can have unforeseen deleterious consequences across pest communities, (vii) climate change will likely decrease the efficacy of current small mammal pest management solutions in New Zealand, and (viii) bovine tuberculosis persistence in brushtail possums is driven by adult males acting as ‘superspreaders’. Current research includes developing novel fertility control solutions for pests (the ‘Trojan Female Technique’), and using reverse vaccinology to develop a vaccine for livestock against the New Zealand cattle tick.

Funding Panel

Andreas Glanznig

Chief Executive Officer
Centre for Invasive Species Solutions

Mr Andreas Glanznig is the CEO of the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (CISS), which facilitates large-scale collaborative and integrated invasive species RD&E programs aimed at delivering innovative new invasive species management tools and approaches.

CISS is the successor to the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, also led by Mr Glanznig between 2010 and 2017, Australia’s largest integrated invasive animals research and innovation collaboration.   Over its 12-year life, the IACRC evaluated and/or delivered new rabbit and carp biocontrol agents including the RHDV1-K5 strain and the carp CyHV-3 virus control agent (with pre-release planning for the latter now being conducted through the Australian Government’s National Carp Control Plan); and new control products, including PAPP, the first new wild dog and fox bait approved for release in 50 years.

Mr Glanznig has also served as a Director of the Weeds Cooperative Research Centre and the Global Invasive Species Program.  He has degrees in Science and Letters, and a Masters of Business Administration.

Andrea Byrom

Director
New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge

Andrea has a PhD in population ecology from the University of British Columbia in Canada. After she moved back to New Zealand, she completed a postdoc on the ecology of invasive ferrets in braided riverbed ecosystems. Her research interests are focused on the ecology and management of invasive mammals, and in particular, the ecology of multiple invasive mammal species in New Zealand ecosystems and their effects on native flora and fauna in tandem with other drivers of global change such as climate change, land use change, and decision-making by people (social-ecological systems). She has also worked on similar issues in Australia and Africa. Andrea is also an Associate Investigator in the Te Pūnaha Matatini Centre of Research Excellence, collaborating on projects looking at the role of citizen science in invasive species management, and the biodiversity outcomes of major pest control regimes in New Zealand.  Currently Andrea is the Director of a large, collaborative inter-disciplinary research consortium, the New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge, which has a focus on building ecosystem resilience. Scientists in the Biological Heritage Challenge are leading and planning the inter-disciplinary and collaborative research required to achieve the New Zealand government’s goal of a Predator-Free New Zealand by 2050.

Petra Lundgren

Science Program Manager
Great Barrier Reef Foundation

The Great Barrier Foundation invests in and manages research projects – covering wide-ranging topics from coral health, seagrass growth and ocean chemistry, to restoring reefs, reef 3D modelling and genetic sequencing – each one designed to produce clear and practical outcomes, insights or data required to tackle the major challenges facing the Reef. Petra’s role as Science Manager is to coordinate, develop and manage this research portfolio, and to ensure the Foundation is aware of current and relevant reef research.

Petra diverse career has included managing the Swedish Government’s support to marine research programs in East Africa, been on the Secretariat of the International Coral Reef Initiative, investigating the capacity for genetic adaptation to climate change in corals at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, and being heavily involved in the Strategic Assessment and the development of the Reef 2050 plan at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Out of the water, Petra has also worked as a geneticist on projects focusing on lizards and frogs in the Kimberley’s and koalas in South East Queensland.

Devon McLean

Director, Project Janszoon
Director, Predator Free 2050
Governance Group member, New Zealand Biological Heritage National Science Challenge

Trained in forestry science and management and previously Chief Operating Officer for New Zealand’s largest forestry company Carter Holt Harvey Ltd, Devon moved into conservation management in 2005. Currently he is environment adviser to the philanthropic NEXT Foundation, a Governance Group member for the New Zealand Biological Heritage National Science Challenge and a director of Predator Free 2050, a crown company focused on achieving invasive predator free status for New Zealand. Other current roles include chairing Zero Invasive Predators Ltd and Predator Free Wellington, and as a director of Project Janszoon and the Taranaki Mounga Project. Devon’s skills are in building effective consortia to invest with impact on critical environmental projects with a focus on securing the ecological resilience of biodiversity at landscape scale.

Johann Van Der Merwe

Johann van der Merwe
Chevron Australia

Is currently is part of the Chevron senior leadership group. Was responsible for the planning, the environmental approval of the Gorgon Quarantine Management System (QMS) and the implementation of the QMS – a system that is designed to protect the conservation values of Barrow Island, a Class A Nature Reserve since 1908.

Prior to Chevron, was the Parks Director for South African National Parks (SANParks), an organisation responsible for the management of all the national parks in South Africa. The national parks of South Africa cover some 4.5 million hectares of mostly globally significant hotspots of biodiversity. Oversaw the largest expansion in national parks since its formation in 1926 by establishing 5 new national parks and expanding 8 existing national park. Saw the establishment and recognition of 2 research Centres of Excellence.

Has a track record as a highly successful strategist and with successful completion of numerous mega-project in conservation and tourism developments in Southern Africa, Southeast Asia (and lately in Australia). Regularly invited to speak at national and international conferences and symposia. Currently also leads an initiative that seeks to balance the co-existence of business and biodiversity – Harry Butler Legacy Initiative.

Considered a change management expert that oversaw the transformation of SANParks to a post-apartheid democratic institution.

Respected and acknowledged in the international community for leading contributions to integrating business and biodiversity. Recipient of the inaugural International Business and Biodiversity Award in 2003 under Chatham House rules in London. Recognised as the leading protected area planner in Southern Africa. Is one of the initial pioneers of transfrontier conservation in Africa – was a member of the Peace Parks organisation. Later championed transfrontier conservation South East Asia – Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand based on experience from Africa.

Considered an expert in aboriginal land restitution and aboriginal land claims that secure the integrity of protected areas. Managed two of the world’s highest profile restitutions post-Apartheid namely.

Has also managed some of the world’s largest invasive species clearing and some of the world’s most virulent veterinary diseases including anthrax, bovine tuberculosis, foot and mouth disease and feline AIDS. Developed several successful world-class models involving sustainability in protected areas, tourism development and community upliftment.

Currently a member of the Harry Butler Science Institute. Currently serves as a member of the CSIRO Health and Biosecurity advisory committee. Was a member of the Western Australia Biosecurity Council.  Deputy Chair of the financial consultancy, FinUCAre. Was a member of WWF Southern Africa Executive Committee, The Peace Park Foundation, the African Science Centre, ex-officio-member of the South African Nation Parks Board as well as the National Parks Trust. Also a board member of the Northern Province Parks and Tourism Board, acted as an advisor to a strategic development initiative (BPAMP) for the World Bank in Southeast Asia, etc.

A respected academic. Was a member of the South African Qualifications Authority, a cabinet appointed board that sets the academic standards in conservation and tourism education. Also made significant contributions to the conservation of rare and endangered species, notably, white rhino, roan, cape mountain zebra, tiger fish and the breeding of disease-free buffalo.

More recently, a notable contribution is the establishment of the Harry Butler Chair in Environmental Science and Biosecuirty at Murdoch University and the development of the QMS where numerous new benchmarks were set and recognition granted for several best practices under his leadership. Notably the Commonwealth of Australia Award for Best Practice in Biosecurity 2015, United Nations Award 2012 for Environmental Best Practice (Australia chapter) and the APPEA 2010 Environment Award, the Australian Centre for Science Coordination ‘Excellence in Innovation’ Award 2011.

James Wei (Declined Last Minute)

Co-founder
Worldview Technology Partners

I am an information technology and biotechnology venture capitalist from Silicon Valley.  I was the co-founder of Worldview Technology Partners, a venture capital firm with $1.5 billion under management at its peak.  Throughout my venture capital career, I have helped start and fund over 100 companies in the US, Asia and Europe.  I also have been a board member of over two dozen private and public companies.  Most recently was the first outside angel investor in Stemcentrx, which is a clinical stage biotechnology company actively developing drugs targeting cancer stem cells for the treatment of solid tumor cancers.

My wife and I have a passion for conservation and we have been funding projects for over 20 years.  We are actively looking at projects from plastic waste recycling, reducing Asian consumption of sharks, renewable energy systems on remote atolls, to protection of marine reserves.  I was most recently a Trustee of the Hawaii Chapter of the Nature Conservancy.  We have a keen interest in the field of using genomics and synthetic biology methods for conservation.  My goal for attending the conference is to learn about this new field, offer my perspective as a potential investor, and see how we might help.

Key issues for me include understanding technology risks, the formation of public policy, project prioritization, and how best to engage the public’s support.  I’d like to understand how we formulate project boundaries in terms of funding, duration, and measuring success.

I am a graduate of Systems Design Engineering from the University of Waterloo in Ontario Canada.