The Organising Committee is currently developing an exciting and comprehensive program to deliver to the attendees of the Australasian Seed Science Conference 2021.

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Dr Sally Box, Australia’s Threatened Species Commissioner

The commissioner works collaboratively with the national Threatened Species Scientific Committee and the community, including the non-profit sector, industry, scientists and all levels of government to broker solutions that avoid the extinction of Australia’s native species. The commissioner consults on, and raises awareness and support for, threatened species in the community. The role includes building on, and initiating, new initiatives and strategic approaches to threatened species conservation.

The commissioner takes a practical, evidence-based approach and is ensuring that conservation efforts and investment are better targeted, more coordinated and more effective.

The commissioner’s role complements the government’s responsibilities for threatened species protection and recovery under Australia’s national environment law – the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 – by having oversight of the development, implementation and reporting of threatened species recovery programmes. The work of the commissioner also supports and supplements the statutory responsibilities of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee.

Prof Robert Henry, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation

Prof Robert Henry conducts research on the development of new products from plants. He is particularly interested in Australian flora and plants of economic and social importance; conducting research into genome sequencing to capture novel genetic resources, which target improved understanding of the molecular basis of the quality of products produced from plants, and genome analysis to capture novel genetic resources for diversification of food and energy crops.

Robert is Professor of Innovation in Agriculture and foundation Director of the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, a Research Institute at the University of Queensland in partnership with the Queensland Government.  He was previously Director of the Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics at Southern Cross University and Research Program Leader in the Queensland Agricultural Biotechnology Centre. 

Dr Si-Chong Chen, Millennium Seed Bank of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK

Dr Si-Chong Chen is an ecologist working on the macroecological patterns in seed ecology at the Millennium Seed Bank of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK. She received her PhD from the University of New South Wales, Australia, and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.

For years, she continuously built her interests in various aspects of seed predation, seed dispersal, seed germination and relevant disciplines. Si-Chong’s research aims to contribute to further understanding of seed ecology in three key ways: 1) by narrowing the gaps between data, intuitive ideas and theories; 2) by enhancing the integration of replicated studies at a macro-ecological scale; and 3) by extending understanding from a local scale and a small number of species to a global scale spanning many biomes and taxonomic groups.

Dr Elinor Breman, Millennium Seed Bank of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK

Dr Elinor Breman (MA Cantab, MSc Oxon, DPhil Oxon) is the Senior Research Leader for seed conservation at RBG Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank. With a background in plant ecology, forestry and palaeoecology, Elinor has been working in seed conservation for the past six years. She is interested in all aspects of conservation seed banking – notably ensuring the quality of collections and building capacity to deliver this.

Dr Sally Norton, Australian Grains Genebank

Sally Norton is the national Leader of the Australian Grains Genebank (AGG) which is one of the largest and most diverse agricultural ex-situ genebank globally. The AGG is located in Horsham, Victoria, and conserves cultivated crop germplasm from all around the world as well as crop wild relative species that are used by Australia’s research and breeders to research and develop new, more resilient grain crop varieties for Australia. Sally has over 20 years’ experience in the collection, characterisation and curation of plant germplasm, and is recognised as a specialist on crop wild relatives. Sally is the Chair of the Organising Committee of the Australasian Seed Science Conference.   

Dr Cathy Offord, The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney

Cathy is the Manager of Germplasm Conservation at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. She is based at the Australian PlantBank, which is an integrated plant conservation facility. She oversees the seed, tissue culture and plant growth research programs and laboratories. Cathy’s main area of interest is the conservation of threatened species in situ and ex situ. In 2018 she won the 2018 NSW Premier’s Prize for Innovation in Public Sector Science and Engineering. Cathy is the Chair of the Scientific Committee of the Australasian Seed Science Conference.

Dr Karen Sommerville, The Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust

Karen Sommerville is a horticultural scientist with a passion for conservation. Her research experience ranges from the reproductive biology and genetics of saltmarsh plants to symbiotic culture of orchids and the storage behaviour of rainforest seeds. Since 2015, she has been leading the Rainforest Seed Conservation Project at The Australian PlantBank, working to determine which Australian rainforest species are suitable for seedbanking and which require alternative methods of ex situ conservation. With funding from the Ian Potter Foundation, Karen is currently using differential scanning calorimetry to investigate the response of rainforest seeds to freezing and thawing. This work will contribute to the conservation of rainforest plants by helping to identify the most appropriate storage temperatures for seedbanking.

Dr Andrew Crawford, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions

Andrew Crawford is the manager of the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions’ Threatened Flora Vault of the Western Australian Seed Centre. Andrew has been involved with the collection of Australian native plant species for 30 years, with 18 years collecting and conserving seed of Western Australia’s conservation significant plant species. Andrew’s work covers all aspects of the seed conservation process; from seed collection and processing, to seed storage and testing, generating plants for translocations, as well as seed focused research aiding in threatened species management and recovery.

Dr Jose M. Barrero, CSIRO Agriculture and Food

Jose completed his Doctorate in the Miguel Hernandez University, Spain, where he worked in leaf development and salt-resistance using the model plant Arabidopsis. He came to Australia in 2006 to join the CSIRO seed dormancy group as a Postdoctoral fellow, becoming Team Leader in 2015. Jose has been studying the molecular and environmental mechanisms controlling seed dormancy using a variety of plant species including Arabidopsis, Brachypodium, barley and wheat. Understanding seed dormancy is important as low dormancy of commercial wheat varieties is a key factor contributing to pre-harvest sprouting in wheat, a major problem in agriculture. He has also lead projects that aimed to deliver tools for hybrid wheat production. Recently Jose has joined a new group at CSIRO that is dedicated to the biotech improvement of cowpea for developing countries.

Dr David Merritt, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions

David is a Principal Research Scientist at the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, based at Kings Park and Botanic Garden, Perth. David has been working with seeds for more than 20 years and his research interests include seed banking, germination physiology and ecology, and the development of seed enhancement technologies to improve seed handling practices for ecological restoration.

Dr Mark Ooi, University of New South Wales

Mark Ooi is a Senior Research Fellow and plant ecologist based at the Centre for Ecosystem Science, UNSW. Over more than 15 years, he has investigated seed ecology and the role it plays in plant population dynamics, particularly in fire-prone regions. He gained his Masters and PhD from the University of Wollongong and in 2007 went on to be Research Associate at Sheffield University (UK). In 2012 he returned to Australia and the University of Wollongong after being awarded an ARC Fellowship. In 2016, he joined the University of New South Wales as part of the Threatened Species Recovery Hub, and later the NSW Bushfire Risk Management Research Hub, where his group undertakes research focused on plant and seed ecology and the conservation of threatened species. He serves as an Associate Editor for Seed Science Research and the American Journal of Botany.