About the Speakers

David Baisch is the Molecular Innovations Director for Conservation X Labs and is leading a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Washington to develop a portable, handheld DNA barcode scanner to combat the trade and sale of illegally sourced wildlife and timber. His expertise is in DNA sequencing technologies, DNA barcoding, marine population genetics, biological oceanography, and field sampling design. Before coming to the Conservation X Labs team, David has spent the last ten years analyzing mitochondrial DNA sequences in phylogenetic analyses on Atlantic salmonids, collecting catch composition information and DNA samples while working on commercial fishing vessels in the Bering Sea and Northern Pacific Ocean, working in regulatory biology in the Detroit District of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, leading field studies in marine systems in Canadian near-shore ecosystems, and teaching as a professor on conservation biology in the Pacific Northwest. David received his MS in Biology-Population Genetics and his BS in Biology-Aquatic Sciences with a minor in Chemistry and from Grand Valley State University.

Robbie Barbero is a biological engineer trained at MIT and Dartmouth College. Between undergraduate and graduate school he spent five years working for three biotechnology startups. During graduate school, he worked in the biomolecular materials research group at MIT on a variety of nanotechnology and biological engineering projects with applications in energy and medicine. Dr. Barbero is currently Assistant Director for Biological Innovation in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy working on a broad range of policy matters related to the life sciences, technology, and innovation, including modernizing the Federal biotech regulatory system, reducing the organ waitlist, cancer diagnostics for the developing world, the Administration’s response to Zika, synthetic biology, genome editing, and supporting the President’s BRAIN Initiative.

Vincent Bryan III is CEO of Whooshh Innovations, a company he co-founded in 2007. Since then, the company has worked with federal, state, and local agencies, Tribes, conservation groups, and regulators to consider the innovative Whooshh™ fish passage technology in the recovery of native fish species. Bryan, also known as V3, comes from a family of entrepreneurs and inventors (medical device and cervical cancer vaccine), developers (Gorge Amphitheater, Cave B Resort and Spa), and vintners (Familigia and Cave B Winery), with a reputation for solving big challenges. Formerly Associate General Counsel at Adobe Systems, Bryan holds B.A. degrees in Economics and Political Science (USC), a J.D. degree (Seattle University Law School) and Master’s degree in Transnational Business Transactions (McGeorge School of Law).

Stanley W. Burgiel (“Stas”) serves as the Assistant Director for Policy and Program Coordination with the U.S. National Invasive Species Council (NISC) Secretariat, where he manages a portfolio of invasive species activities identified in the NISC Management Plan and Executive Order 13112 related to early detection and rapid response, applications of modern biotechnology, free trade agreements, international trade and environmental policy, and the National Environmental Policy Act. Stas has a long history of work on international environmental issues and has worked and consulted for a range of nongovernmental, governmental and intergovernmental organizations. He received his Ph.D. in international service from the American University and a B.A. in political science from Swarthmore College.

Earl Campbell has worked on invasive species issues in the Pacific and Caribbean for over twenty-five years. Early in his career, he conducted original research on invasive snake, rodent, and frog control for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) / National Biological Survey / U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Department of Agriculture - Wildlife Services - National Wildlife Research Center. Since 2001, he built and managed an Invasive Species Program for the USFWS working with a dedicated staff on a wide range of issues. Additionally, he has served in a range of regulatory, managerial, scientific, and policy roles relative to Pacific Islands conservation.

Karl Campbell is the Program Director for Island Conservation in the Galapagos. Karl has worked for 19 years on some of the world’s largest and most complex eradication campaigns of invasive mammals. His role typically involves identifying sites and partners, detailing a strategy, plan and budget, fundraising, managing field operations and refining strategies as required. In projects he’s been involved with, new techniques or refinements to existing techniques have been made in aerial hunting, dog training, toxic baiting, trapping, Judas animals, detection probability tools, and the use of GPS, GIS and digital data collection and management technologies. Karl initiated Island Conservation’s Innovation Program, has worked on restoration projects in over a dozen countries and has published over 50 scientific and popular articles.

Dr. Larry Clark is the Director of the National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) and serves as the Scientific Integrity Officer for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Larry has degrees from the University of Maryland (BS), Northern Arizona University (MS), and the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D.). Over the years Larry's research has included the physiology and physics of temperature regulation in animals, the use of plant-derived biopharmaceuticals by wild animals, sensory biology, quantitative structure activity relationships of chemical irritants, the study of animal pain perception, and transferring scientific findings into management and policy. Besides extensive publications and professional recognitions, Larry is the recipient of the prestigious Kerry-Manheimer Award for career achievements in the chemosensory sciences.

Alex Dehgan is the CEO of Conservation X Labs, a company focused on harnessing exponential technologies, open innovation, and entrepreneurship for conservation. He is also the Chanler Innovator at Duke University, where he researches and lectures on technology innovation for conservation and development, including through a MOOC with Coursera. Dr. Alex Dehgan recently served as the Chief Scientist at USAID, with rank of Assistant Administrator, and founded the Global Development Lab, modeled to be a DARPA for Development. Prior to USAID, Alex worked in multiple positions within the Office of the Secretary, and the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, at the Dept. of State, including overseas service in Iraq. As the founding director of the Wildlife Conservation Society Afghanistan Program, Alex helped create Afghanistan’s national park system. Alex holds a Ph.D from the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at The University of Chicago.

Dr. Steve Gittings is Chief Scientist for NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program, and is former manager of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. He is broadly experienced in conservation science, specializing in coral reef ecology, monitoring, and characterization. He has extensive field experience in scientific diving, ROV operations, and submersible use. Recently, Dr. Gittings has been developing a trap designed to catch lionfish in waters beyond scuba depth. The trap minimizes by-catch, eliminates the possibility of ghost-fishing, and could create new opportunities for fishermen to help create a steady supply of lionfish to seafood and other developing markets.

James Leary is an Associate Specialist with a split research and extension appointment at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, land grant institution.  His mission is to extend knowledge and technology contributing to efficient and effective invasive plant species management.  To that end, he enjoys collaborations with a wide range of academic disciplines in biology, engineering, economics, and GIS.  His claim to fame, so far, has been the development of Herbicide Ballistic Technology (HBT) for treating individual weed targets.  With this novelty now being deployed operationally, he is becoming more interested in the applied sciences of large data acquisition, performance analytics, quantitative ecology, operations research and management science; all contributing to higher-level tactical and strategic decisions.

Professor David Lodge is one of the world’s leading experts on invasive species. His research focuses on ecological forecasting and environmental risk assessment, natural resource management, and policy. Lodge served: as the first chair of the U.S. government’s national Invasive Species Advisory Committee (2000-01); on advisory committees for EPA, IJC, and NOAA; and as a Jefferson Science Fellow in the Department of State. As a Rhodes Scholar, Lodge received a D.Phil. from the University of Oxford. Lodge has published >200 scientific papers, edited two books, and is the director of Cornell University’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

Lydia McClure is the Program Director for the Innovation-Corps (I-Corps) program at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Prior to joining the NSF, Lydia was a national instructor for the I-Corps program based out of the Southwest I-Corps node. In addition to her work with I-Corps, Lydia was the Director of the university-focused, pre-seed portfolio at The Austin Technology Incubator (ATI). The capstone program of her portfolio was Student Entrepreneur Acceleration and Launch (S.E.A.L.) held in partnership with the Kauffman Foundation. Lydia spent 10 years with The University of Texas at Austin studying human disease, identifying ways to monetize university research, and as a Venture Partner with Texas Venture Labs. She earned a BA with a concentration in Biochemistry from Carleton College and PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of Texas at Austin.

Mike Mendelsohn graduated with a B.S. in Microbiology from the University of Maryland. He has been working at the Environmental Protection Agency in the Office of Pesticide Programs on biotechnology issues since 1987. He currently is a senior advisor in the Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division.

Scott Miller has managed research and collections programs in major institutions for over 20 years. At the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, he has served as Chairman of the Department of Entomology and Chairman of the Department of Systematic Biology, with oversight of a combined staff over 300 federal employees with an annual budget of over $20 million. His previous experience includes 12 years at the Bishop Museum (Hawaii) managing its programs in biology and geology, with heavy involvement in public programs and development. He spent two years in Kenya initiating a biodiversity and conservation program at an international agriculture research institute (the International Centre of Insect Ecology and Physiology).

Ritu Nalubola, Ph.D. is a Senior Policy Advisor in FDA’s Office of Policy, Office of the Commissioner. She advises senior leadership at FDA on complex and cross-cutting policy issues, including related to genetic engineering, nanotechnology, food safety, nutrition, and international consensus-based standards. She also has a leadership role in FDA’s implementation of the Food Safety and Modernization Act. Dr. Nalubola routinely represents FDA at various domestic and international policy forums. She started her career at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in 2001. 

Christofer Nelson is the Assistant Director for Open Innovation at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Christofer has been involved in prizes, challenges, citizen science, crowdsourcing, and public science education for nearly a decade. Previously, he was Program Director of the Georgetown University Program on Science in the Public Interest, which teaches actionable innovation and equips students to apply scientific problem solving skills to complex global challenges. Christofer lead the launch and administration of the Georgetown University Energy Prize, a national competition challenging 50 small-to medium-size cities and counties to rethink their energy use.

Will Pitt is the deputy director for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), where he administers and manages SCBI’s science centers and research programs. He is responsible for the financial and facility programs, the operations of the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, and SCBI’s 3,200-acre conservation and research facility in Front Royal, Virginia. He oversees more than 220 scientists, postdoctoral fellows, and students from universities around the world. Pitt works passionately to improve the conservation of endangered species through collaboration, education, and research.

G. Nagesh Rao is a 2016 USA Eisenhower Fellow whom also serves as Chief Technologist & Entrepreneur in Residence with the US Small Business Administration’s Office of Investment & Innovation. His portfolio of work includes advising senior leadership around the SBIR/STTR programs, Co-Leading the SBA Growth Accelerator program and Co-Leading Coordination of the Fueling Small Business Innovation Interagency Policy Committee for the White House’s Lab to Market Commercialization Agenda, as well as handling all things “techie” and “nerd-related.”

Jamie K. Reaser serves as the Executive Director of the National Invasive Species Council (NISC) Secretariat. In addition to guiding all aspects of NISC Secretariat operations, Jamie has been providing the leadership necessary to develop an Arctic Invasive Alien Species (ARIAS) Strategy and Action Plan under the auspices of the Arctic Council; produce a documentary on invasive species entitled, Protecting What Matters; establish the Innovation Summit; and raise the capacity of other governments to more effectively institutionalize invasive species programs. She received a Ph.D. in Biology from Stanford University and B.S. in Field Biology from the College of William and Mary.

Kent H. Redford is Principal at Archipelago Consulting (archipelagoconsulting.com) based in Portland, Maine, USA. Archipelago Consulting is designed to help individuals and organizations improve their practice of conservation and has worked with the Global Environment Facility, U.S. National Park Service, and the Moore Foundation. Prior to Archipelago Consulting Kent spent 14 years at the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York and five years in The Nature Conservancy. He started his career with a decade on the faculty at University of Florida. He received his Ph.D. in Biology from Harvard University. Kent has co-convened several meetings bringing together conservation biologists and synthetic biologists.

Greg Ruiz is a Marine Ecologist with diverse interests in invasion biology, biogeography, and ecology in coastal marine ecosystems. Based at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), Greg heads a team of 40 full-time biologists, conducting research to assess status, trends, and drivers of marine invasions throughout North and Central America. This work includes extensive analysis of trade dynamics and management strategies to limit species introductions associated with commercial ships and other transfer mechanisms (vectors). Greg received his Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley and has published over 150 scientific articles, focusing primarily on marine invasion ecology and management.

Michael Stebbins, Ph.D. is Vice President of Science and Technology at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. He joined the foundation after serving as the assistant director for biotechnology at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. At the White House, Michael was responsible for developing and driving initiatives in life sciences research, including the Administration’s efforts focused on improving veterans’ mental health, combating antibiotic resistance, increasing access to federally funded scientific research results, restoring pollinator health, and reforming the regulatory system for biotechnology products. Michael previously served as a science advisor to the Obama Campaign and on the Obama Presidential Transition Team. He is the former director of biology policy for the Federation of American Scientists, co-founded and served on the board of directors for Scientists and Engineers for America and taught bioethics at the U. Penn. In addition, Michael worked as a legislative fellow for U.S. Senator Harry Reid and a public policy fellow for the National Human Genome Research Institute. Before coming to Washington, he was a senior editor at Nature Genetics. He received his B.S. in biology at SUNY Stony Brook and his Ph.D. in genetics while working at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Wendy Taylor is Founder and Director of the Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), a center of excellence applying innovative, business-minded approaches to accelerate the development, introduction and scale-up of priority global health innovations. Joining the Administration in 2010, Ms. Taylor created and built the Center; spearheaded Grand Challenges to globally crowd source groundbreaking solutions to tough health challenges, including the successful Saving Lives at Birth, Fighting Ebola, and Combating Zika and Future Threats Grand Challenges; and created multiple public-private partnerships. 
Dr. Johanna Wolfson is the Director of Technology-to-Market in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). In this position, she leads efforts to reduce barriers and inefficiencies in the U.S. innovation system in service of getting promising clean energy technologies to market. Existing efforts under Tech-to-Market help launch entrepreneurs and new businesses out of universities and National Labs, help support early-stage clean energy businesses with funding and incubator services, provide small businesses with technical support at National Labs, and position startup companies for scale-up. She is also responsible for developing new EERE programs in service of the Tech-to-Market mission, and for coordinating Tech-to-Market efforts across EERE’s technology offices.

Gintas Zavadskas has always worked at the fringe between management and scientific research, always favoring science-based decision-making processes. He is passionate about biotechnology application, assessment, and management. His current research interests concentrate on the study of invasive species from different angles, ranging from technical aspects of control, new technology evaluation and application, modeling, design of effective control coordination, institutional aspects of decision-making and invasive species jurisdictional responsibilities. He studied biotechnology engineering at the Autonomous University of Guadalajara. After moving to work in the Fish and Wildlife Department for the Miccosukee Tribe in Florida in 2006, his work has been science-based conservation that is centered with indigenous rights and peoples in mind. His projects integrate the holistic approach that the Tribe embraces as a way of living and their efforts in conservation. Nature is sick and is mother to us all – fight for her.

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