Plenary Speakers

  • Chris Filardi is is the Director of the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation’s Pacific Program at the American Museum of Natural History. In his work, he combines over 20 years of field natural history, biodiversity research, and partnership with indigenous peoples to leverage science in fostering grassroots conservation. Research on island speciation has been a springboard for actions and social compacts that are inspiring globally recognized indigenous protected area initiatives in the western Pacific. In and out of the Pacific region, scientific and leadership mentoring and youth advancement have been a priority. Chris received his Ph.D. in 2003 from the University of Washington, where he studied patterns of speciation and the biogeographic history of tropical Pacific flycatchers.



    Taholo Kami is the Regional Director for the Oceania program of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) based out of Suva, Fiji. A Tongan native, Kami grew up in Papua New Guinea and graduated with an accounting degree from the University of Technology of PNG. He completed an MBA in marketing/eCommerce as a Fulbright scholar at Vanderbilt University. Kami has worked with the United Nations in New York on networking small islands nations by setting up the Small Islands Developing States Network (SIDSNET). He has been involved in various initiatives such as working on development projects at a local level and national development strategies on information and communication technologies and the environment. He currently chairs the Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation.




    David Keith is Professor of Botany in the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of New South Wales, and Senior Principal Research Scientist at the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage where he has worked as an ecologist since 1986. His research includes empirical and modelling studies of the dynamics of plant populations, communities and their habitats. Applications of these studies have helped to advance understanding of interactions between native vegetation and bushfire, climate change, grazing and diseases for management and conservation of biodiversity. David also contributed to the development, testing and application of conservation risk assessment methods, including Red List methods for both species and ecosystems. He has authored more than 110 peer-reviewed scientific papers and an award-winning book, ‘Ocean shores to desert dunes: the native vegetation of New South Wales and the ACT’.




    Eve McDonald-Madden is a Chief Investigator on the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions and an Australian Research Council Early Career Research Fellow with the School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, at The University of Queensland, Australia. Her research on how we make decisions in conservation is at the cross-roads of statistical and mathematical analysis and ecology, and focusses on finding novel solutions to the complex problem of managing biodiversity. The foundation of her work is ‘Decision Theory’, a concept initially used to maximise the effectiveness of scarce military resources while dealing with the uncertainties always present in war. To aid better conservation decision-making, she uses a suite of analysis techniques for seeking optimal strategies that are largely novel to ecology and conservation, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI). In particular she is interested in decisions about when to invest in monitoring and adaptive management, what is the value of information for improving decisions, and how such adaptive processes can aid decision-making in the face of uncertainty about climate change.




    Bob Pressey leads the conservation planning program within the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. He is widely credited as one of the founders of the field of systematic conservation planning and continues to lead cutting-edge, applied research in this area. Unusually, Bob combines scientific leadership with extensive experience in conservation practice and policy, and a strong commitment to engagement with practitioners. Bob’s experience includes seven years as a private environmental consultant, working mainly on survey and conservation evaluation of freshwater wetlands, and nineteen years as a research scientist with the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, focused on semi-arid and forest ecosystems. Since his academic appointment in 2007, Bob has assembled a large group of PhD and postdoctoral researchers focused on all aspects of conservation planning in marine, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems across Australia, through the Asia-Pacific region, and further afield.




    Konai Thaman has held since 1998, a Personal Chair of Professor of Pacific Education and Culture at The University of the South Pacific She is a Tongan national and has worked at USP since 1974. She also holds a prestigeous UNESCO Chair in Teacher Education and Culture. She has a BA in Geography from the University of Auckland, N.Z., an M.A. in International Education from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and PhD in Education from the USP. She has conducted research, consultancies and published widely in the areas of teacher education, curriculum development, culture and education, education for sustainable development and has held senior administrative positions in the USP including Director of the Institute of Education and Pro Vice Chancellor and Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor. She is also a widely published poet (five collections of her poetry have been published).


    Randy Thaman has, since 1992, held a Personal Chair of Professor of Pacific Islands Biogeography in the School of Geography, Earth Sciences and Environment at The University of the South Pacific and, along with his wife, Konai, are USP’s two longest serving academic staff members. He is a Fiji citizen, but originally from California where he received his BA and MSc from Cal Berkeley and his PhD from UCLA. Over the pat 40 years he has worked and conducted research with local and indigenous island students and communities in some 18 Pacific Island countries and territories and has co-authored, with local and indigenous collaborators, books, articles, technical papers and consultancy reports on traditional agriculture and agroforestry, forestry, medicinal plants, Pacific floras, impacts of marine conservation, traditional fisheries knowledge, island biodiversity and invasive alien species. Many of his former students now hold important positions with government and non-government agencies in the areas of conservation and sustainable development throughout the region. In 2012 he received an Honorary Membership of IUCN and in 2013 was Awarded the Inaugural Pacific Islands Environment Leadership Award, Lifetime Achievement at the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas and is the only Pacific Island member of the recently formed Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP) of the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).


    Opening Speaker


    James Watson is the past president of the Society for Conservation Biology Oceania section and President-Elect of the SCB Board of Governors. James is an Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Queensland (UQ) and leads the Climate Change Program for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). James works closely with different government agencies and environmental NGOs to prioritize conservation investment in different countries. As the Climate Change Program Leader for WCS, he leads two different climate teams: the climate adaptation team and the climate mitigation and forestry team. James completed his doctorate at the Oxford University in 2004, where funded by a Rhodes Scholarship he explored the effects of habitat fragmentation on birds in Madagascar and Australia. Since then, he has worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California (San Diego) and as a senior campaigner for The Wilderness Society in Australia.



    Closing Speaker



    Richard Kingsford is is Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences of the University of NSW. He is President of the Society for Conservation Biology (Oceania). He has focussed his research over about the last 20 years on the waterbirds, wetlands and rivers of arid Australia, which cover about 70% of the continent. He is a member of the Australian Government’s Environmental Flows Scientific Advisory Panel and the Lake Eyre Basin Scientific Advisory Panel. His research has demonstrated the ecological values of many rivers and impacts of water resource in arid Australia. He is currently working on adaptive management of environmental flows.