sustainability through science & innovation

our people

Paul Umina

Director

Growing up on a farm meant that Paul’s fascination with the natural world began at a young age and was the driving force behind his decision to study biological sciences. Since completing his PhD in entomology, Paul has spent the last 15 years helping Australian farmers achieve a balance between profitability and environmental sustainability. He does this by developing new ways to combat the insect pests which plague their livelihood.

Paul is passionate about seeing valuable scientific endeavours adopted in the real-world. It was this desire that led Paul to team up with Andrew Weeks to form cesar in 2007. To this day, Paul works to ensure research findings are communicated and translated into practical outcomes for Australian agriculture.

Paul oversees the Sustainable Agriculture division at cesar. He is an accomplished leader in pest management in Australia and internationally, regularly presenting at conferences, workshops and industry meetings. He is the inaugural chair of the grains National Insecticide Resistance Management (NIRM) committee, and the creator of PestFacts south-eastern, the highly successful newsletter recieved by over 1,500 people working with broadacre crops and pastures.

His achievements in research and communications are well-recognised, with the University of Melbourne awarding Paul a Staff Excellence Award in Engagement (2011) and the Deans Award for Excellence in Engagement (2015). In 2012, he was named the Victorian Young Tall Poppy of the Year.

Away from work, Paul loves nothing more than spending time with family and getting out and about in the great outdoors. Whether that means heading back to the family farm, going hiking, travelling to new places or riding his bike around the foothills of Melbourne.

Andrew Weeks

Director

Andrew’s passion is genetics. He is fascinated by the many ways different creatures adapt to their environments, and how nature versus nurture contributes to the process. His interest began when studying insects in agricultural environments, but it wasn’t long before Andrew’s focus shifted to the conservation field and he has since spent the last 15 years working on some of Australia’s most endangered animals. This includes his favourite species, the mountain pygmy possum, which also happens to live in his favourite environment, the Australian alps.

Andrew has developed expertise in a broad range of fields including conservation genetics, wildlife ecology, environmental monitoring, sustainability management, and agricultural pest management. In 2007, he 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. He currently oversees the Biodiversity Conservation division at cesar.

Andrew’s 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, he has become actively involved in providing expertise in genetics to numerous threatened species programs throughout Australia. Andrew is currently a member of three state threatened species recovery teams, a specialist advisor to Parks Australia and Mt Rothwell Biodiversity and Interpretation Centre and a founding Director of EnviroDNA.

Jessica Lye

Team Lead - Extension and Communications

jlye@cesaraustralia.com, +61401 555 567

Jessica is a strong believer in the translation of science and practical research outcomes. After completing her PhD investigating zinc ion transport in the tiny vinegar fly, Jessica began her career in extension and communications, and now contributes to building the bridge between scientific research and on-ground application. Since leaving the lab bench, she has acquired extensive experience in science communication, adult education, engagement, and project management, and expertise in Australian biosecurity policy and exotic pest responses.

Prior to joining cesar, Jessica was the National Manager - Science and Extension at AUSVEG. There she sat on the executive team and managed industry levy funded projects encompassing agrochemical needs and priorities, sustainable farming, exotic plant pest management, plant pest surveillance, and farm biosecurity. She has been an industry representative on the Consultative Committee for Emergency Plant Pests and has been a member of multiple advisory committees.

At AUSVEG, Jessica contributed to management of industry challenges relating to biosecurity, agrochemical usage, trade, and food safety.

Jessica has since become a vocal proponent of investing in biosecurity preparedness activities by agricultural industries at national, state, and regional levels. She has played a key role in launching large-scale industry-wide preparedness projects, focusing on pest surveillance, farm biosecurity training, and management planning for key exotics.

In 2016, Jessica received the AgriFutures Australia Rural Women’s Award (Victoria), an award that identifies and supports emerging leaders who have the desire, commitment and leadership potential to make a greater contribution to primary industries and rural communities. She is also a member of the Rural Women’s Award Alumni, Australian Science Communicators, and the Australian Society for Horticultural Science.

While Jessica descends from the coal miners and steel workers of South Wales she now lives and breathes all things ‘ag’ and can’t think of any other field that she would rather be in.

Frances Morell

Administration Manager

Frances grew up in the green wedge in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs. With the pristine natural environment at her door step, sustainability was very much at the core of her upbringing. From a young age, she learnt the value of conservation.

Frances supports the cesar family with business and project administration, human resources, and financial management, as well as providing executive assistance to Paul and Andrew.

Prior to joining cesar, Frances worked for a small, family owned, Melbourne based retail business. In her 5 years with them, she progressed from production to store management, to an inventory management role. She has extensive experience in people management, organisation, and planning, all of which she brings enthusiastically to her role at cesar.

Josh Griffiths

Senior Wildlife Ecologist

Josh is passionate about the conservation of Australia’s unique wildlife. This motivation is at the core of his personal and professional actions. In his (limited!) spare time, Josh enjoys a variety of outdoor pursuits including camping, hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking. This constant immersion in nature is an important time for Josh to unwind, while also allowing him to pursue his love of wildlife photography.

Josh completed his Environmental Biology degree in Adelaide, and has worked in diverse landscapes from arid South Australia, the highlands of Victoria, and Tasmania’s river systems. His ecological knowledge and extensive field experience allows him to design and implement projects that ensure clients get the information required to develop better management plans, and to understand the effectiveness of those plans. Most importantly to Josh, he interacts with a variety of people from Government agencies, industry and the broader community to share ideas and develop innovative solutions to Australian conservation issues.

Josh also recognises the importance of communicating scientific research to the public and can often be found in front of a community group talking about his specialty species – the platypus!

James Maino

Research Scientist (Predictive Modelling)

James uses mathematics and computer modelling to develop tools that help us better manage some of our most notorious crop pests. Recently he assisted in creating a tool to predict the lifecycle events of key broadacre pests based on climate data. James’ work also includes monitoring and predicting the evolution of insecticide resistance in the infamous redlegged earth mite.

James is passionate about food security, environmental sustainability, and biodiversity preservation. His role at cesar provides him a unique opportunity to apply his expertise at the interface of these pressing issues.

James’ academic contributions have enhanced our predictive power around insect responses to changing environments. James' accomplishments in this field have been acknowledged 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.

In his spare time, James enjoys hiking around Australia’s wide and diverse landscapes, while taking note of the smaller natural wonders that lurk underneath his feet. 

Anthony van Rooyen

Research Scientist (Genetics)

Anthony van Rooyen provides critical genetic analysis, research and innovation at cesar. His portfolio includes projects on animal health, biosecurity, monitoring, genetic rescue and insect pest management. He loves that his work involves a wide variety of projects, which has meant that he has been able to get out in the field and apply technology to many different areas.

While Anthony has a broad skillset and knowledge of contemporary genetics, his real skill is in applying these genetic “toolkits” for positive outcomes in sustainability and conservation. He likes to do this by working with clients and researchers from a diverse range of disciplines, and will always spend time with them first get a thorough understanding of their needs.

Anthony grew up on a picturesque farm nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Southern alps which nurtured a strong interest for agriculture and environment. This led him to Lincoln University, Canterbury where he achieved First Class Honours in Biochemistry. Prior to joining cesar he was part of a research team investigating the effects of ocean acidification on seafloor ecosystems in Antarctica, although, by being based in temperature/pH controlled labs in New Zealand he missed out on those Antarctic conditions.

Julia Severi

Research Adoption and Extension Scientist

Julia is the first port of call for growers and advisors seeking help with broadacre crops and pasture critters. Whether it’s by mail, twitter or phone, she loves the challenge of identifying invertebrate pests and beneficials found on farm. She is also a writer and editor of PestFacts south-eastern, and is passionate about communicating clear and impactful messages about sustainable pest management.

It was Julia’s fascination with the journey of food from paddock to plate that inspired her to study a bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences (Honours) and international development. At university, she was particularly captivated by pest and disease management and soil science. Prior to joining cesar in 2016, she could be found assessing crops and running field trials as a graduate research agronomist with Agriculture Victoria.

Lisa Kirkland

Research Scientist (Entomology)

Lisa manages the product development and testing space at cesar. Whether she’s out in the field collecting insects, in the lab running a bioassay, or in the shadehouse tending to semi-field microcosm trials, Lisa loves getting up close and personal with invertebrates. This work suits her well, as she is always the one her family calls to remove critters from the bathroom.

Lisa has an insatiable interest in the ecology and behaviour of all creatures great and small. This led her to study invertebrate ecology, biosecurity, and biodiversity conservation at the University of Auckland, and to volunteer at the zoo. She also went on to gain First Class Honours studying the biological clock of the honey bee.

Lisa is passionate about protecting beneficial invertebrates by assisting our clients to select the most effective ‘soft’ pesticides in the battle against crop pests. She revels in the challenge of designing experiments to answer clients’ questions about their products, and enjoys the balance of hands-on science and computer-based work throughout her day.

When she’s not at work, Lisa can be found playing with her two puppies, Milhouse and Eevie.

Elia Pirtle

Research Scientist (Entomology)

Elia develops surveillance and management tools to help prepare Australia for incursions of exotic insect pests, such as the vegetable leafminer fly. She also runs microcosm studies to determine the efficacy of pest control options. Elia loves being part of a team that has a strong focus on practical research outcomes. She grew up in the desert surrounded by a menagerie of animals, and has since been passionate about environmental sustainability and conservation.

After graduating from her Bachelor’s degree with First Class honours, she left her hometown of Reno, Nevada for Australia, to pursue a PhD at the University of Melbourne. Here she studied how reptiles stay cool and hydrated under extreme environmental conditions, using a combination of laboratory and field experiments, and computer modelling. Her research took her to remote parts of the North American and Australian desert ecosystems, which suited her well as she loves nothing more than working out in the field.

Elia is passionate about making science accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds. She also loves to explore the ways that science can be communicated through art.

Aston Arthur

Research Scientist (Entomology)

Aston works in the product development and testing space at cesar. She is passionate about pest management, and has a long history of developing effective and sustainable control options for a range of agricultural pests.

Growing up in a small farming community and her love for animals led Aston to study biological sciences. After taking a keen interest in invertebrate pests, she completed a PhD at the University of Melbourne, investigating the biology, ecology and genetics of Balaustium and Bryobia mites. Throughout her career, Aston has gained vast experience in molecular genetics, field and shadehouse trials, and lab experiments. Her work has been published in a number of scientific journals.

Aston enjoys the variety her job offers, whether it is in the field collecting invertebrates, running microcosm trials in the shadehouse, or in the lab undertaking bioassays. She also loves that her role fits into her busy family life. When not at work, Aston loves spending time with her young family.

Alana Govender

Research Scientist (Entomology) 

With a strong passion for agriculture and the natural environment, Alana aims to help farmers and agronomists better understand the ecology of invertebrates in their crops to bring about more sustainable cropping practices. At cesar, Alana divides her time between invertebrate identification for large-scale surveys and product development and testing.

Alana has completed both Honours and PhD in the field of agricultural entomology, specifically on biological pest control. During these 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.

Currently in a part-time role, Alana spends the rest of her week looking after her toddler.

Peter Kriesner

Research Scientist (Genetics) 

Since a childhood spent in a small Victorian country town, Peter has had a lifelong passion for nature and the great Australian outdoors. He is inspired by the ‘endless forms’ and complexity of natural systems—how organisms interact with their environment and with each other, and the dynamic balance between competition and cooperation that underlies symbiotic relationships.

He recently completed a PhD at the University of Melbourne in ecology and evolutionary biology that focussed on common bacterial endosymbionts of insects and prior to that also had a broad and varied background in business management and administration, legal compliance, and workplace relations.

Peter is currently investigating gaps in our knowledge regarding population size and population structure of Victoria’s biodiversity from a genetic perspective, and the potential to enhance the genetic health of populations to bolster resilience against future threats such as climatic change, and to mitigate against the risk of inbreeding depression.

In his spare time, Peter enjoys hiking, outdoor photography, climbing, bird-watching, and spending time with his family.

Garry McDonald

Senior Consultant (Entomology)

After a career of more than 40 years in sustainable agriculture and entomology, Garry is an integral and experienced cesar team member. His career passions have been in insect ecology, the optimisation of sustainable farming systems, and education towards sustainability and energy efficiency, thus being a natural fit within the cesar crew.

Garry’s passion lies in the development of quality, relevant and insightful approaches to the delivery of pest information and IPM training to agricultural advisors and growers. For example, Garry has driven the use of predictive modelling in pest management, creating DARABUG, a computer program for simulating development rates of insect pests, which continues to inform pest management decisions today. And after decades of studying the ebbs and flows of pest cycles in agriculture, his experience is invaluable in making sense of seasonal pest trends.

He has studied extensively, completing a Bachelor of Science, Masters of Agriculture Science, and a PhD in Invertebrate Ecology, and brings a veritable wealth of working experience and knowledge to cesar. This includes 22 years as a research scientist with the Victorian Department of Agriculture/Primary Industries (DPI), 10 years as Director of the Rutherglen Research Institute and 6 years as Director of Swinburne University’s National Centre for Sustainability. Nowadays, Garry is also an Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne, a research volunteer with Bush Heritage Australia and periodically works with the Goulburn Broken CMA on the Nature @ Work sustainable agriculture initiative.

Garry is a keen cyclist, wood worker, gardener and apiarist with his own urban and country bee hives!