our people

Paul Umina

Director
Bachelor of Science (Honours), PhD Zoology and Genetics

Dr Paul Umina is a well recognised and accomplished leader in agricultural science in Australia and internationally. 

In 2007 Paul teamed up with Andrew to form cesar. cesar is a thriving innovative business that assists clients to achieve sustainable outcomes using scientific research and principles. Through world leading science and research, Paul and the cesar team demonstrate that environmentally and economically sustainable models of farming practice can co-exist. Paul works to ensure  that research findings are communicated and translated into practical and valuable outcomes for the agricultural industry.

Research Achievements

Paul’s research has advanced the agricultural industry's approach to pest management in Australia. He was integral to the discovery of insecticide resistance in the redlegged earth mite, one of Australia's most significant agricultural pests. He has also uncovered the way numerous insects reproduce, researched chemical sensitivities in various agricultural insects, and identified natural ways to control insect pests using beneficial insects. Paul is the inaugural chair of the grains National Insecticide Resistance Management (NIRM) committee.

Advocacy, Education & Communication

Paul is a leader in research and education in sustainable approaches to pest management. He is regularly invited to present at national conferences, workshops and industry meetings. Paul has delivered workshops on insect identification and IPM for hundreds of farmers, agronomists and other industry personnel.  He launched the highly successful newsletter, PestFacts south-eastern, which cesar distributes to over 1,500 people working with broadacre crops and pastures. In 2011 the University of Melbourne recognised Paul's achievements in communication with a Staff Excellence Award in Engagement. In 2012 Paul was named the Victorian Young Tall Poppy of the Year. The prestigious annual Young Tall Poppy Science Awards recognise the achievements of Australia’s outstanding young scientific researchers and communicators. Paul was also awarded the Deans Award for Excellence in Engagement at The University of Melbourne in 2015.

Publishing

Paul's research has been published extensively in leading Australian and international journals including Science, Molecular Ecology, Bulletin of Entomological Research, PLOS One and Pest Management Science. Paul has authored over 40 peer-reviewed scientific articles, almost 80 consultancy reports, and over 90 industry and technical publications, including papers in Australian Farm Journal, Australian Grain and Farming Ahead.

Paul's publications can be found here.

 

Andrew Weeks

Director
Bachelor of Science (Honours), PhD Ecological Genetics

For over 15 years Dr Andrew Weeks has worked as an international research scientist in Australia, The Netherlands and the USA. Over this time he has developed expertise in a broad range of fields including conservation genetics, wildlife ecology, environmental monitoring, sustainability management, and agricultural pest management. 

In 2007 Andrew teamed up with Dr Paul Umina to form cesar, with the goal of creating an innovative science based consultancy that could assist government and private sector clients to achieve sustainable outcomes using the latest scientific research and principles.

Andrew oversees the Genetic Insights and Wildlife Ecology divisions at cesar, and works closely with the managers of each division to ensure quality of service for Clients. His passion for wildlife combined with his experience in population and ecological genetics has resulted in the development of unique conservation strategies that aim to maximise species resilience. Realising genetic issues are often not considered in conservation strategies Andrew has become actively involved in providing expertise in genetics to a number of threatened species programs throughout Australia.

Research Achievements

Andrew’s early research career led to the discovery of several new species of earth mites and to the development of new strategies for their control in Australian broad acre agriculture. He has conducted research on a broad range of Australian and international pests of agriculture, using his skills as an ecological geneticist to gain insight into aspects of their biology. Andrew has contributed substantially to our understanding of the evolution of asexuality, demonstrating that asexuals are more likely to be pests in agricultural contexts.

More recently, Andrew has been integral in developing novel translocation strategies for the conservation of Australian native species. In 2010 he led a research team who undertook the first ‘genetic rescue’ of an endangered mammal in Australia, the mountain pygmy possum found in the alpine areas of Victoria.

Memberships & Formal Positions

Andrew is a member of the Australian Wildlife Management Society, the Ecological Society of Australia, the International Society for Conservation Biology and the National Invertebrate Pest Initiative. He is an expert international reviewer for the Australian Research Council and also reviews grant applications for international organisations such as the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation. Andrew is a member of three State Recovery Teams, and a board member of the Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre at Little River in Victoria, one of the states premier wildlife conservation parks.

Publishing

Andrew's research has been published in many of the most prestigious international scientific journals, including Science, PLoS Biology, Ecology Letters, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Genetics, Evolution and Biology Letters. He has authored over 70 scientific publications in peer reviewed international journals and more than 30 consultancy reports for a broad range of government and private sector clients.

Andrew’s publications can be found here.

 

Josh Griffiths

Senior Consultant - Wildlife Ecology
Bachelor of Science (Honours), Environmental Biology

Responsible for the day to day management, organisation, and reporting of cesar's Wildlife Ecology projects, Josh Griffiths works with our clients to design and implement biological surveys and research for a diverse range of native fauna. Passionate about the conservation of Australian wildlife, Josh has extensive field experience across a broad range of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in Australia. 

Josh’s work in platypus conservation has alone resulted in over 12,000 hours spent conducting field surveys of this vulnerable species throughout Victoria and Tasmania. He has also been involved in critical reintroduction programs for the bilby and tammar wallaby. After many years spent working in the field, he has become highly experienced in small mammal trapping and telemetry tracking techniques, which are skills essential to the success of many of the projects we undertake.

Analysis, interpretation and communication of data are important parts of the service we provide to clients and community groups. Josh is well known for the quality of his written and verbal communication skills, and his excellent attention to detail, all of which are evident in the scientific reports and publications he produces, and through the contact and support he provides to cesar's clients.

Alana Govender

Consultant - Sustainable Agriculture
Bachelor of Science (Honours), PhD Agricultural Entomology

With a strong passion for agriculture, Dr Alana Govender aims to help farmers and agronomists better understand the ecology of invertebrates in their crops to bring about more sustainable cropping practices.

Alana has completed both Honours and PhD in the field of agricultural entomology, specifically on biological pest control. Her PhD thesis investigated the biology and ecology of a major pest in tropical and subtropical Australian horticultural crops, and the potential for biologically based management of this pest. During her Honours and PhD projects, Alana conducted large-scale invertebrate collections, which improved her taxonomic skills and gave her an appreciation for the complexities of pest/beneficial invertebrate ecology.

In her role as extension entomologist within the Sustainable Agriculture division at cesar, Alana is responsible for communicating information and providing advice to clients regarding pest and beneficial invertebrates. With a background in education as well as agricultural science, Alana understands the need for good communication of scientific research to growers, agronomists and relevant industry bodies; Alana aims to use all possible avenues of communication to achieve this.

Siobhan de Little

Senior Consultant - Sustainable Agriculture
Bachelor of Science (Honours), PhD Ecological Entomology

Dr Siobhan de Little brings her experiences working in integrated pest management and ecology to her role in cesar’s Sustainable Agriculture team. Siobhan is responsibile for managing research projects on resistance in green peach aphid populations across Australia.

Siobhan’s interest in integrated pest management developed as a part of her PhD work investigating the effectiveness of different control methods for disease-carrying mosquito species, in the Northern Territory. During this project, Siobhan developed her skills in statistical analyses to provide insight into ecologically informed pest control procedures, as well as designing field trials to explore different pest control options.

Passionate about delivering good science, from experimental design to statistical analyses, over her career Siobhan has been involved in projects in many different areas of ecology and environmental management. Siobhan brings her experience of using the best tools available for investigating and analysing the complexities present in ecological data, while also being able to communicate the results of these findings to a wide audience, including both managers and scientists.

Siobhan’s love of problem-solving, and her skills in project management, experimental design, and communication help her provide the best possible support and service to cesar’s clients.

Garry McDonald

Senior Consultant - Sustainable Agriculture
Bachelor of Science, Masters of Agriculture Science, PhD Invertebrate Ecology

Dr Garry McDonald brings exceptional leadership and diverse experiences to cesar spanning entomological research, research management, education and sustainability. As an integral member within cesar’s Sustainable Agriculture team, Garry works to provide enhanced development and delivery of pest information services and the development of IPM training to grains advisors and growers.

Garry's career passions have been in insect ecology, the optimisation of sustainable farming systems, education for sustainability and energy efficiency. His career started as a research and extension entomologist with the Victorian Department of Agriculture/Primary Industries (DPI) for 22 years, working initially on mosquito and ant ecology, and subsequently on integrated pest management (IPM) and biological control strategies for a range of pests of horticulture, field crops and pastures. Garry has published extensively in peer-reviewed and industry publications on the ecology and management of invertebrate pests, including armyworms, budworms, Rutherglen bug and cockchafers.

For 10 years, Garry was Director, Rutherglen Research Institute, a multi-disciplinary farming systems Institute in northern Victoria focussed on the development of productive land management systems for enhanced environmental outcomes. The research was essentially aimed at minimising the trade-offs between production systems and their environmental impacts. This subsequently evolved into the role of Research Director for DPIs state-wide Landscape Systems Research Platform which drew together systems-oriented agricultural research.

The sustainability theme of Garry’s research interests was a catalyst in his appointment as Director of Swinburne University’s National Centre for Sustainability. Under his six years of leadership, this Centre established the concept of and qualifications for Education for Sustainability within the Australian tertiary education sector while also developing training in sustainability in business, energy efficiency and carbon management.

Rosie Phillips 

Business Operations Officer
Bachelor of Commerce

Responsible for the Business Operations area of cesar, Rosie supports the Directors Andrew and Paul with financial management and reporting, bookkeeping, human resources, administration, ATO and ASIC compliance, OH&S and project support. A high level of organisation and prioritisation skills allow her to manage workflow and time constraints.

Prior to joining the team at cesar, Rosie worked in the Corporate Banking Credit Risk team at the Commonwealth Bank for ten years. In her roles she gained extensive experience decisioning lending applications including the identification and mitigation of credit risks, analysis of financial statements, projections and business plans. She has worked extensively across various segments, including Corporate, Business and Agri Banking.

Like all of the team at cesar, Rosie believes in taking action to create a sustainable future for Australia. She oversees the implementation of cesar's sustainability policy, which includes measuring and monitoring the company’s environmental impact and leading initiatives to reduce this impact.  

Anthony van Rooyen

Consultant – Genetic Insights
Bachelor of Science (Honours), Biochemistry

Anthony provides critical technical support and laboratory research for cesar's Genetic Insights division. As part of his role he processes a wide range of biological samples and generates genotypic, sequencing and diagnostic data. He thoroughly enjoys the process of developing genetic tools that help us understand how ecological communities function, and using these insights to make a real difference to the conservation of native species in Australia.

Anthony has conducted genetic analyses for a vast range of projects and Australian species, including; the Orange Bellied Parrot, the Christmas Island red crab, Tasmanian native hen, mountain pygmy possum, leadbeater's Possum, the brush-tailed rock wallaby, eastern barred bandicoot, barred galaxias, pygmy perch, bottlebrush and chytrid fungus in frogs.

Prior to joining cesar Anthony was part of a research team investigating seafloor ecosystems in Antarctica. He achieved First Class Honours in Biochemistry at Lincoln University, Canterbury, has received two research scholarships, and completed a major project for the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology in New Zealand.

He is experienced in a broad range of scientific techniques, including; microsatellite isolation, characterization and analysis, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), reverse transcriptase PCR and quantitative real time PCR, cloning, sequencing, DNA, RNA and protein extraction, protein gel electrophoresis, enzyme assays, Western blotting, immuno-histochemistry, and fast protein liquid chromatography. He is skilled in the use of software critical for genetic analyses including GeneMapper, Sequencher, and accessing database resources such as the National Centre for Biotechnology Information and Web of Science.

Julia Severi

 

Consultant – Sustainable Agriculture
Bachelor of Agricultural Sciences (Honours)/Bachelor of International Development

Julia is the current editor of PestFacts south-eastern, and is the first point of contact for broadacre agronomists and farmers seeking invertebrate identifications and information on pest and beneficial species. She is passionate about communicating clear and impactful messages about sustainable pest management on farms. 

Julia completed her undergraduate studies at La Trobe University. Her First Class honours project focused on rhizosphere priming effects on soil organic matter decomposition, for which she received the Australian Society of Soil Science’s Frank Gibbons Award. After graduating, she gained a place in Agriculture Victoria’s science graduate program as a research agronomist, gaining experience across private, not-for-profit and public sectors in the Victorian grains industry.

 

James Maino

Senior consultant – Sustainable Agriculture
Bachelor of Arts (Honours), PhD Quantitative Biology

As part of the cesar team, James uses a variety of quantitative approaches and computational packages to develop tools to better predict and manage economically and environmentally important invertebrates. James is passionate about biodiversity preservation, environmental sustainability, and food security and is currently applying his conceptual and modelling expertise at the interface of these interconnected issues.

James is a highly accomplished scientist, with an outstanding track record of excellence that is demonstrated by numerous high-impact scientific publications. Majoring in mathematics during his undergraduate study, James went on to obtain PhD in quantitative biology jointly awarded by the University of Melbourne and Vrije University, Amsterdam. James has conducted groundbreaking work in the application of quantitative theory to the study of insect life-histories and functional traits. This work has been instrumental in advancing our predictive power around insect responses to changing environments, which is crucial to better understanding insect responses to climate change, as well as in agricultural systems where there is a heavy selection pressure for pesticide resistance. James' accomplishments in this field have been acknowledged more widely by various honours, including the prestigious Elton Prize from the British Ecological Society in 2014, and the Chancellor's Prize from the University of Melbourne in 2016 for Excellence in the PhD thesis.

Lisa Kirkland

Research consultant – Sustainable Agriculture
Bachelor of Science (Honours), Biology and Psychology

Lisa brings her experience in biodiversity management and invertebrate ecology to cesar’s Sustainable Agriculture team. Lisa’s work involves testing the efficacy of pesticide products against a range of invertebrate crop pests. As an advocate for integrated pest management, Lisa is passionate about protecting beneficial invertebrate species by assisting our clients to select the most effective species-targeted pesticides in the battle against agricultural crop pests.

Her insatiable interest in the ecology and behaviour of all creatures great and small lead Lisa to study biodiversity conservation and biosecurity, throughout which she gained several awards for academic achievement. Her early research in environmental ecology investigated the impact of micro-plastic pollution on microscopic marine invertebrates at the base of the food chain. Following this, Lisa achieved First Class Honours in chronobiology through the University of Auckland, researching the response of the biological clock of honey bees (Apis mellifera) to anaesthesia. Lisa’s passion for conservation also inspired her to volunteer and train as a zoo keeper, gaining experience in the management and breeding of endangered species. Prior to joining cesar, Lisa applied her skills in science to immunological research using cellular and molecular biotechnology techniques.

Lisa works closely with our clients to design and conduct semi-field microcosm trials to determine the efficacy of pesticides against invertebrate crop pests. At the forefront of agricultural research, Lisa is responsible for managing research projects on Russian wheat aphid (Diuraphis noxia). This research is integral in determining the best approach for the control of this new pest in Australia. 

With a deep respect for the environment and a passion for maintaining sustainable ecosystems, Lisa is a proud member of cesar’s team working towards sustainability through science and innovation. 

 

Katie Robinson

Senior consultant – Biodiversity Conservation
Bachelor of Science (Honours), PhD Biological Sciences

At cesar Katie is leading the research in the use of environmental DNA-based multispecies identification in a range of aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Katie harnesses the power of cutting-edge DNA sequencing technology to gain insight into species biodiversity and abundance at our clients’ sites, using simple environmental samples such as water gathered from rivers, ponds or streams. 

Katie has over ten years’ experience in genetics and molecular biology assessments offered by cesar. Throughout her career, she has applied her expertise to better understand the behaviour and ecology of a diverse range of species, from microbes to insects, native mammals and plants. In the past, Katie has used molecular tools to study a number of different systems, such as genetic regulation of swarm formation behaviour in locusts, native marsupial diets, genetic diversity in bees, environmental microbiology and antimicrobial resistance in bacteria.

Awards

 Finalist: Alfred Russel Wallace Award, Royal Entomological Society (2014)

 University of Sydney Postgraduate Award (2011)

 University of Sydney Postgraduate Research Support Scheme

 Macquarie University Medal (2003)

 Bill Cantwell Prize for proficiency in the Biological Sciences honours program, Macquarie University (2003)

 Australian National University Summer Scholarship (2002)

Sue Vern Song

Bachelor of Science (Honours), Genetics and Computer Science

Sue completed a Bachelor of Science with majors in genetics and computer science. For her Honours in genetics, she worked on a research project investigating cold tolerance in the model organism, Drosophila melanogaster. Her PhD project on population genomics in the cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) ignited her interest in working with the increasingly large datasets generated by new sequencing technologies, and exploring bioinformatic tools for automation and data analysis.

Prior to starting her PhD, Sue was an analyst programmer for a bank in Southeast Asia. She was drawn back to the world of biology. She enjoys working on a range of problems and is motivated by the knowledge that her efforts help translate research findings into practical outcomes for the agricultural industry and wildlife conservation. She has experience in using molecular techniques (DNA and RNA extraction, PCR, quantitative real-time PCR, cloning, sequencing) as well as bioinformatic tools (for multiple sequence alignment, analysis of sequence variation, primer design, blast, including command-line tools) to survey genetic variation in natural populations.