2021 Committee

2021 Conference Committee

Oliver Berry

Oliver Berry

Olly is a senior research scientist and director of CSIRO’s Environomics Future Science Platform. This is a research and development program inventing new ways to use genomic technologies to support environmental science and management. https://research.csiro.au/environomics/

Cindy Bessey 2

Cindy Bessey

Cindy Bessey is a marine ecologist whose passion is understanding the role of lower trophic level organisms in sustaining diverse, productive and healthy ecosystems. Cindy’s research projects have included investigating trophic interactions in threatened seagrass ecosystems, evaluating how commercially important fish populations are affected by varying environmental conditions, and assessing the risk that genetically modified fish pose to the natural environment. She currently manages the Ecological Genetics laboratory and works on advancing environmental DNA (eDNA) techniques for successful implementation into bio-monitoring programs which are cost-effective, easily deployed and accessible to anyone. Her focus is on obtaining diversity data in coastal and offshore systems in order to evaluate ecosystem changes resulting from both anthropogenic and natural pressures. Her international employment experience includes positions with the Western Australian Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in California, USA, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in British Columbia, Canada.


Dr Maarten De Brauwer

Maarten is a marine ecologist with expertise in coral reefs and soft sediment habitats. He received his PhD from Curtin University (Perth), focussing on cryptobenthic fish species in Indonesia. His research uses methods such as eDNA, network analysis and classic survey techniques to better understand the functioning of coastal ecosystems. Maarten’s previous research includes projects in Australia, Indonesia, South Africa, and the Philippines. He currently works as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at CSIRO, where he is developing a roadmap to integrate eDNA methods in marine park monitoring.

Francisco Encinas-Viso

Dr Francisco Encinas-Viso

Dr Francisco Encinas-Viso is a research scientist at the Centre of Australian National Biodiversity Research, CSIRO. His research focuses in biomonitoring, conservation genetics, plant and pollination ecology. He has also a strong interest in the application of eDNA and ecological modelling to conservation and habitat restoration.

Dianne Gleeson

Professor Dianne Gleeson

Dianne is a wildlife geneticist, with 20 +yrs of research experience in the application of DNA technologies for biodiversity conservation outcomes in both New Zealand and Australia. Her career focus has been facilitating the translation of fundamental research into outcomes for end-users. Previously at Manaaki-Whenua Landcare Research NZ, she developed a successful business unit, EcoGene, resulting in a national award for Women in Science Entrepreneurship. Currently she leads the EcoDNA team at the Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, which is focused on the development eDNA technologies for invasive species, border biosecurity and biodiversity monitoring.

Rachel Hale_Small

Dr Rachel Hale

Rachel is a marine ecologist working on marine benthic community diversity and biogeochemistry from the intertidal to the deep sea. She received her PhD from the University of East Anglia, focussing on how intertidal community changes as a result of benthic disturbance affect sediment biogeochemistry and habitat stability. Her current projects include integrating eDNA into marine benthic monitoring, assessing the effects of short- and long-term benthic physical, chemical, and biological disturbance on invertebrate communities, and supporting sustainable shellfish and finfish aquaculture. She currently works as a Marine Ecologist at the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) in Nelson, Aotearoa New Zealand.

Shane Herbert

Shane Herbert

Shane has had a career in biotechnology covering a broad exposure to commercial life sciences which have predominantly been in genomic and proteomic service providers, and includes private biotech, large pharma and supplier organisations. He leads the eDNA frontiers group at Curtin University which translates the exciting technology out of the Trace & Environment DNA lab (TrEnD) and applies it to biodiversity, dietary, conservation and invasive species studies for applications with industry and government. Shane grew up as the son of an agriculturist in a seaside coastal town so while he’s not in the ocean himself much now, eDNA has been a great way to be virtually be in it!

Michael Knapp - small

Michael Knapp

A/Prof Michael Knapp is a molecular ecologist with a particular interest in human impacts on past and present biodiversity and biogeography. His work integrates molecular, palaeontological and ecological data. Michael graduated at Massey University (New Zealand) and has since worked at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig (Germany), Bangor University (Wales) and the University of Otago (New Zealand). He is now a group leader in Molecular Anthropology and Ecology in the Department of Anatomy at the University of Otago, and a Principal Investigator in the “Coastal People: Southern Skies” Centre of Research Excellence.

Name:	Dr Craig Sherman
Position:	Senior Lecturer
Centre:	School of Life & Env. Sciences
Area:	Faculty of Sci Eng & Built Env
Campus:	Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus
Tel:	+61 3 522 71406
Fax:	+61 3 522 71040
Email:	craig.sherman@deakin.edu.au

Craig Sherman

Craig Sherman is an Associate Professor in ecological and environmental genetics at Deakin University. His research uses a combination of ecological and molecular approaches to address fundamental questions in the fields of ecological restoration, invasive species biology and genetic adaptation. Craig is a collaborative researcher working with academics, industry and government agencies to find management solutions to complex environmental issues facing coastal and marine ecosystems.


Assoc. Prof Jo-Ann Stanton

My team and I develop point-of-need diagnostics. We create simple to operate devices that deliver in field sample-to-answer molecular diagnostic results for non-expert users. To illustrate: 1) Two devices have been commercialized through a University of Otago spin out biotech company, Ubiquitome Ltd. 2) A DNA extraction system was co-developed with ZyGEM NZ Ltd and is now commercially available from MicroGEM NZ. 3) A new sample-to-answer solution for in field detection of COVID-19 is currently undergoing evaluation by the US FDA Emergency Use Authorization scheme. Our current work is focused on point-of-need testing of eDNA samples to detect marine biosecurity threats and fresh water microbial pathogens.

Miwa Takahashi

Miwa Takahashi

Miwa is a marine biologist interested in marine ecology, fishery science, metabarcoding and species distribution modelling. She did her undergraduate studies at James Cook University, followed by a PhD at Curtin University. She is now working at eDNA frontiers and at CSIRO, both based in Perth, being involved in eDNA methods innovation and leading a community engagement program.

Gulliver during semen collection

Lara Urban

Lara Urban is an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow who studies how genomic research can benefit nature conservation and be incorporated into the management of critically endangered species. During her PhD at the University of Cambridge, UK, and the EMBL – European Bioinformatics Institute, Lara applied and developed methodology in the fields of statistical genomics, single-cell genetics and deep learning. She is now combining this expertise in genomics with her background in both applied and theoretical ecology to investigate how these approaches can be combined with established applications from population and evolutionary genomics to inform the fledgling field of conservation genomics. In her role as Research Fellow at the University of Otago, Lara focuses on two critically endangered avian species endemic to Aotearoa New Zealand, the takahē and the kākāpō, and hereby directly collaborates with the Takahē and Kākāpō Recovery Teams, Revive & Restore, Birds New Zealand, the Department of Conservation and the Alexander von Humboldt foundation. She further benchmarks different eDNA approaches to obtain information about species presence, population structure and demography as well as fitness and disease susceptibility from environmental samples such as soil and water.

Cecilia Villacorta-Rath

Cecilia Villacorta-Rath

Cecilia is a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER), James Cook University. Cecilia is trailing field methods and conducting laboratory experiments testing the persistence and detectability of eDNA of an array of species of conservation and management significance, in freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Her work focuses on providing stakeholders with more “tools in the box” for detection and management of invasive and endangered species. Cecilia is leading multiple eDNA projects in northern Australia and her main interest is to develop user-friendly methods for non-specialist engagement. She has built links with Indigenous Ranger groups across northern Australia, natural resource management authorities and industry, for eDNA sample collection in remote, rural areas.


Katrina West

Katrina is an early-career researcher interested in environmental DNA (eDNA), genomics, ecology and evolution. Katrina’s research promotes the use of genetic tools to study biodiversity at a time when climate and anthropogenic influences necessitate careful management and monitoring of biota. She has recently completed her PhD at Curtin University, Western Australia where she focused on the development and application of eDNA metabarcoding for aquatic biomonitoring in Australia’s Indian Ocean region. She has previously used ancient DNA techniques to track prehistoric Polynesian migration across the Pacific islands and examined hybridization and introgression in Australian freshwater crayfish. Her current postdoctoral position at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) aims to extend eDNA metabarcoding capabilities and applications for marine fish and elasmobranch monitoring.

Shaun Wilkinson - small

Shaun Wilkinson

Shaun is the founder and CEO of Wilderlab, Aotearoa New Zealand’s only exclusive eDNA testing laboratory. As a graduate of the University of Wellington, Shaun did a PhD in genetics and postdoctoral research in bioinformatics, where he developed statistical software packages for sequence alignment and classification. Since starting Wilderlab in 2019, Shaun has grown the company to a team of 10 people who oversee the majority of freshwater eDNA work across Aotearoa. Shaun has a keen interest in community-based science and monitoring, especially working with indigenous communities to restore the mauri (life force) of our rivers, lakes and oceans.

Anastasija Zaiko

Anastasija Zaiko

Of Russian roots, born and raised in Lithuania, Anastasija completed her undergraduate and postgraduate studies, followed up by PhD degree in Ecology and Environmental Sciences at Klaipeda University, specializing in aquatic biological invasions. Later, following the rapid development of molecular technologies, she got excited about their potential useability for biosecurity applications and particularly detection of unwanted organisms in complex marine ecosystems. In 2014, Anastasija did a big move from Lithuania to New Zealand to learn more about those methods and apply them in her research. At Cawthron, Anastasija is a member of the Biosecurity Team within Coastal and Freshwater Group. She is involved in the development and validation of eDNA/eRNA-based tools for the routine environmental monitoring in aquatic ecosystems, ecological health indicators and a range of projects focusing on different biosecurity aspects. Currently, Anastasija co-leads the Marine Biosecurity Toolbox programme and oversees the DETECT research theme to ensure effective integration of molecular approaches into the developing biosecurity toolbox. Also, as a co-appointee at the University of Auckland, Institute of Marine Sciences, she supervises post-graduate students working in marine ecology and biosecurity research areas.

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