Co-founder and Executive Director
Ryan Phelan is the Co-founder and Executive Director of Revive & Restore, with a mission to enhance biodiversity through the genetic rescue of endangered and extinct species. Ryan works 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 challenges such as those posed by inbreeding, exotic diseases, climate change, and destructive invasive species. She organized a landmark workshop on genetic rescue at the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress, and acted as a principal investigator for the 2015 IUCN- and Rockefeller Foundation-sponsored Bellagio Conference on Biodiversity Conservation in the Context of Synthetic Biology.
Ryan is a serial entrepreneur, active in the for-profit and non-profit worlds. She 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, a consumer health website unique for its depth of content and innovative search interface. Ryan is also President of the Board of Directors for Revive & Restore.
Ben J. Novak collaboratively pioneers new tools for genetic rescue and de-extinction. He helps shape the genetic rescue efforts of Revive & Restore and leads its flagship project, The Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback. Ben works with collaborators and partners to restore the ecology of the Passenger Pigeon to the eastern North American forests. Ben uses his training in ecology and ancient-DNA lab work to contribute, hands-on, to the sequencing of the extinct a Passenger Pigeon genome and to study important aspects of its natural history.
Ben’s mission in leading the Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback is to set the standard for de-extinction protocols and considerations in the lab and field. His 2018 review article, “De-extinction,” in the journal Genes helped to define this new term. More recently, his treatment, Building Ethical De-Extinction Programs—Considerations of Animal Welfare in Genetic Rescue was published in December 2019 in The Routledge Handbook of Animal Ethics: 1st Edition.
Ben’s work at Revive & Restore also includes extensive education and outreach, the co-convening of seminal workshops, and helping to develop the Avian and Black-footed Ferret Genetic Rescue programs included in the Revive & Restore Catalyst Science Fund, alongside the fund’s Program Manager Bridget Baumgartner.
While passenger pigeons are Ben’s passion and specialty, the conceptualization of biotech-based genetic rescue solutions for all organisms has been a lifelong pursuit. Ben graduated from Montana State University studying Ecology and Evolution (2005). He later trained in Paleogenomics at the McMaster University Ancient DNA Centre in Ontario (2010-2012). This is where he began his study of passenger pigeon DNA, which then contributed to his Master’s thesis in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California Santa Cruz (2016). This work also formed the foundational science for de-extinction.
From 2017 to 2019, Ben worked at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory–CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) to advance genetic engineering protocols for the pigeon. Now returned to the U.S., Ben continues with the conceptual work he began at CSIRO to accelerate avian functional genomics for genetic rescue research.
Program manager, Catalyst Science Fund
Bridget Baumgartner joined Revive & Restore as the Program Manager of the Catalyst Science Fund in January 2019. With a background in molecular biology and genetics, Bridget brings five years of experience in program creation, development, and management as a contractor to the Biological Technologies Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). While at DARPA, Bridget was responsible for driving high-risk, high-reward research and development initiatives in synthetic biology, aimed at promoting the use of green technologies to solve big problems. Certain projects in her portfolio also involved counteracting the impacts of climate change and reduced species diversity. Bridget has a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX and a B.S. in Biochemistry from Stony Brook University of New York.
Bridget will work closely with Revive & Restore leadership and the Catalyst Science Fund Advisory Council to develop an overarching investment and grant strategy designed to accelerate the creation of impactful innovations in conservation. She will work directly with the various research teams as they submit proposals, refine their scope of work, establish milestones, and oversee progress and deliverables. Establishing and growing this Catalyst Science Fund is a major focus for Revive & Restore in 2020.
Director of Conservation Innovation
Michele Weber joined the Revive & Restore team in January 2020 bringing scientific expertise, program development skills, and an enthusiasm for science, nature, and conservation.
Michele is an evolutionary biologist with over ten years’ experience in scientific research and philanthropy. Using a creative strategy to address scientific challenges, Michele has conducted research on threatened coral reefs around the world, working on questions related to symbiosis and biodiversity. More recently, Michele helped develop the scientific priorities and program strategy for the Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems Initiative at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
At Revive & Restore, Michele sources and develops diverse collaboration opportunities and innovative scientific solutions. She works with conservationists, scientists, government agencies and funders to build projects and strategies that address some of the world’s most pressing conservation challenges. Michele holds a Ph.D. in Integrative Biology and a BS in Molecular and Cell Biology, both from UC Berkeley.
Communications & Outreach Manager
Heather Sparks brings twenty years of science writing and marketing experience to Revive & Restore. Her specialty is distilling complex information into concise and compelling content.
Heather received her BS in molecular genetics from The Ohio State University before interning at WIRED magazine at the apex of the first tech bubble. Afterward, she earned her MA in science journalism from New York University and worked as a copywriter and associate creative director in pharmaceutical marketing. In 2012, Heather began writing about art made in response to science and has hosted two events on the topic at Austin’s South By Southwest. Heather is thrilled to communicate for Revive & Restore and return to genetics as her topic of choice.
Marmee serves Revive & Restore as Operations Manager, helping to keep the organization running gracefully under the leadership of its Executive Director. Marmee oversees the daily operations which include accounting, administration, media relations, online presence, event planning, donor management, project coordination—and ensures the dynamic Revive & Restore global community stays connected.
Before joining our team, Marmee owned and operated a restaurant in San Francisco and then Berkeley for 13 years before moving into wine sales. As a Certified Sommelier, and environmentalist who values high levels of sustainability, Marmee specialized in biodynamic wines and farming practices.
Stewart Brand is co-founder of Revive & Restore and co-founder and president of The Long Now Foundation, where Revive & Restore was incubated for its first four years. The idea of bringing cutting-edge biotech to conservation first went public with Stewart’s 2013 TED Talk, “The Dawn of De-extinction.” Stewart has been an ardent conservationist since he was 10. That led him to get his degree in Biology from Stanford in 1960, focusing 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 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 instead of ideology, Stewart wrote Whole Earth Discipline: The Rise of Ecopragmatism (2010, Penguin). The book has two chapters on the environmental benefits of biotechnology. In 2015 Brand was one of the authors of an influential essay, “An Ecomodernist Manifesto.” He also co-founded The WELL and Global Business Network.
Director of the Village and Wilderness Project; Heath Hen Project Advisor
Tom directs the Village and Wilderness Project, a program that he founded to reconnect and restore ecologically viable wildlands and redevelops climate-safe communities. He was one of the panelists at Revive & Restore’s Heath Hen Event in July 2014 which brought the idea of a heath hen de-extinction to the Martha’s Vineyard community, where the bird last lived. Born and raised on Martha’s Vineyard, Tom brings a deep understanding of land-use change to the conservation of Massachusetts’s coasts, including making residential landscapes more supportive of essential ecological processes. Tom has a B. S. in Zooarchaeology from the University of Florida and an M.S. in Quaternary research from the University of Maine. His areas of expertise and interest include Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island, ecological restoration, conservation entrepreneurship, conservation education and community engagement, island ecology, archaeology, and climate change. Tom grew up hearing first-hand accounts of the heath hen and as child fantasized he might one day find them in a hidden corner of the Vineyard.
Senior Research Scholar, Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), Stanford University
Dr. Megan J. Palmer’s work seeks to develop, promote and advise on best practices and policies for responsibly advancing synthetic biology, and biotechnology more broadly. She is currently a William J. Perry Fellow in International Security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University. She is also a research Fellow at the University of California Berkeley and the Joint Bioenergy Institute (JBEI), and serves on the advisory board of the Joint Genomics Institute (JGI). In addition, Dr. Palmer is an investigator of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (Synberc) and serves as its Deputy Director of Policy & Practices. Synberc brings together leaders in synthetic biology from universities across the United States in close partnership with industry. She has directed projects in biological safety, security, property rights, and community organization and governance. Dr. Palmer has also launched many programs engaging the synthetic biology community in the societal aspects of their work including the Synthetic Biology Leadership Excellence Accelerator Program (LEAP), a fellowship in biotechnology leadership and the Policy & Practices track of the international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition. Megan holds a Ph.D. in Biological Engineering from MIT. She received a B.Sc.E. in Engineering Chemistry from Queen’s University, Canada
Professor of Ecology and Evolution, University of California, Santa Cruz; Passenger Pigeon Project Advisor
Dr. Beth Shapiro is an evolutionary biologist who specializes in the genetics of ice age animals and plants. She uses DNA recovered from bones and other organic remains to study how species and communities evolved through time and how human activities affected this dynamic process. Her PhD research developed new tools to infer temporal changes in species’ abundance and distribution from chronological samples of genetic data. She has since used these to trace evolutionary changes in organisms ranging from influenza to mammoths, asking questions about domestication, admixture between species pairs, and pathogen evolution. Her current work develops techniques to recover and analyze increasingly trace amounts of DNA, such as from environmental and forensic samples. A 2009 MacArthur Fellow, Beth is also an award-winning popular science author and communicator who uses her research as a platform to explore the potential of new genomic technologies for conservation and medicine.
Her book, “How to Clone a Mammoth,” offers a critical, pragmatic, perspective about de-extinction that is rooted in her ancient DNA expertise, Beth is a protagonist for the appropriate, ethical, and responsible application of de-extinction technologies for conservation of living species and their ecosystems. She co-directs the Paleogenomics Lab at UCSC, and her lab published the first DNA sequences of the Passenger Pigeon in 2002. She has since become one of the premiere scientists contemplating the emerging field of de-extinction.
Board of Directors, The American Chestnut Foundation; Board of Visitors, Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University; President’s Council, Southern Environmental Law Center; Commissioner, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
Brad Stanback owns and manages a 1300+ acre Research Farm in the Southern Appalachians between Asheville and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He is involved as a funder and advisor to many local environmental groups, particularly land trusts involved with protecting land through purchase or conservation easement. His hobby is Ecological Restoration, but done on a scale that most would consider well beyond a hobby. Brad’s particular restoration focus is with The American Chestnut Foundation, working to develop a disease-resistant American chestnut tree to restore to the Appalachian forest.
Chairman and Founder, Asuragen
Matt is a lifelong biologist and environmentalist. He received a B.S. degree in Genetics and a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of California at Berkeley. He joined the Zoology Department as an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Austin in 1983. In 1989, as an Associate Professor, he started Ambion Inc., a molecular biology “tools” company. He is the author of over 30 publications and has 19 issued patents. In March of 2006, with the goal of more directly influencing patient’s lives, he sold the research products division of Ambion to Applied Biosystems and with about 100 employees started Asuragen. Asuragen is an in vitro molecular diagnostics company with worldwide distribution of its products focused on cancer and genetic diseases. He sits on the boards of The Breakthrough Institute and several advisory boards associated with The University of Texas. Matt has been active in pro-GMO issues since 2000.