Scientific Advisory Group

Steve Rounsley (Chair)

Senior Director
Applied Genomics Genus plc

Steve Rounsley is the Senior Director of Applied Genomics for Genus plc. Originally from the UK, Steve earned his PhD in Biology from UC San Diego where he studied the molecular control of flower development in Arabidopsis. In 1995, he transitioned into full-time bioinformatics with a postdoc at TIGR, where he led a team sequencing the Arabidopsis genome. Since that time, he has held positions in large multinational companies, a small startup company, the Broad Institute and run his own lab at the University of Arizona. In 2016, he joined Genus plc, a company focused on pioneering the improvement of animal genetics to nourish the world. In this current role, he is responsible for the acquisition and use of genomic information for a portfolio of breeding and biotechnology projects. In addition, he has worked with the cassava community for the last decade to aid in the adoption of genomic tools for improving cassava varieties for smallholder farmers in Africa. He serves on the Scientific Advisory Boards for a number of projects funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation including NextGen Cassava, GOBII and EABBP.

Jane Gibbs (Member)

Plant Physiologist
Independent Consultancy, Mount Claremont, WA, Australia

Jane Gibbs is a plant physiologist with a research background in plant adaptations to environment and plant energy metabolism, in which area she was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy from The University of Western Australia in 1993.  Her research includes studies of the effects of waterlogging and oxygen deficiency on banana roots, particularly in relation to disease, respiration and nutrient loading. In recent years, Jane has worked as a listed executive officer and member of the executive management team within a group of small agribusiness companies.  These focused on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of crop breeding in Australia by increasing the choice and rate of availability to growers of specifically-adapted, higher-yielding crop varieties.  Jane is currently a director in a company seeking to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis in wheat and other C3 crops.  Jane continues her interest in the physiology of banana as an active contributor, with Dr David Turner, to the Promusa website [“The Banana Seed” (2016)].  Jane is co-author of a chapter in the book in preparation “Achieving sustainable cultivation of bananas. Volume 1 Cultivation Techniques” Eds G Kema, A Drenth (Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing: Cambridge UK).

Hale Ann Tufan (Member)

Adjunct Assistant Professor
Plant Breeding and Genetics, and International Programs, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA

Hale Ann Tufan is Principle Investigator of the Gender Responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) project.
A molecular biologist by training, she completed her PhD at the John Innes Centre, and worked for CIMMYT, and the University of East Anglia, School of International Development and the Natural Resources Institute. She joined International Programs, Cornell University in 2012 to manage the NEXTGEN Cassava project. She developed and continues to lead the NEXTGEN Cassava “Gender-Responsive Cassava Breeding” initiative to capture needs, priorities and challenges women and men face in cassava production, to prioritize gendered traits in breeding program design and implementation. Her current work focuses on designing gender responsive crop breeding programs, capturing gendered crop trait preferences, and conceptualizing tools to codify and translate qualitative end user trait descriptors for breeding programs, especially for use in upstream trait selection.

Eva Weltzien-Rattunde (Member)

Honorary Research Fellow
University of Wisconsin – Madison, USA with the Jahn Research Group

Eva Weltzien’s research has focused on the effective use of sorghum, pearl millet and barley genetic resources for variety development and seed systems that best meet women and men farmers’ needs in dryland production areas, such as the Syrian Steppe, the Thar desert of Rajasthan, India, and sub-Sahelian zones of West Africa. For the past 17 years she has coordinated research on sorghum improvement in West-Africa for ICRISAT with a focus on developing methodologies for participatory plant breeding to address farmers’ production constraints and meet family needs for food and other products derived from cereals. Her research on enhancing local seed systems has resulted in an active network of farmer seed producer cooperatives in several West-African countries. In 2015 she was awarded the ‘Justus von Liebig Prize for World Nutrition’, jointly with her husband Fred Rattunde, for these efforts. She received her Doctorate degree from the Technical University of Munich, Germany, after studies at the University of Hohenheim, Germany, and Iowa State University, USA. She is now an honorary Research Fellow of the University of Wisconsin (Madison), WI, USA.

Richard Sikora (Member)

Prof. Emeritus, INRES-Plant Protection
University of Bonn, Germany and Consultant for Integrated Pest and Disease Management

Richard Sikora obtained his PhD in Plant Pathology at the University of Illinois, USA in 1970. After a one year appointment as visiting Assistant Professor at G.B. Plant Agricultural University in India, he joined the University of Bonn in Germany. He was appointed University Professor in 1990 responsible for research and teaching in plant protection in the tropics and subtropics. He has trained a large number of PhD and MS students in both basic and applied science as it relates to integrated pest management with a major portion of the research conducted in Africa, Middle East, South East Asia and Central America. He has been given many awards for his team’s training and research accomplishments and is honorary fellow of a number of scientific organizations. He has experience with plant parasitic nematodes, insects and fungal pathogens on a range of tropical food crops. Presently he is convener of a Think-tank on Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture located at STIAS in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Klaus Koehler (Member)

Dow Dupont
NA Corn Breeding Logistics Lead, Corteva Agriscience

After earning a PhD in Plant Breeding at the University of Hohenheim, Germany in 1986, Klaus Koehler began his professional career at KWS Saat AG in Germany. In 1988 he moved to United States to establish a proprietary corn breeding program as Director of Research for KWS Seeds, gradually expanding to several Midwest breeding stations and a winter nursery site in Puerto Rico. In 1999 Klaus became Global Corn Breeding Leader in Aventis Crop Science (acquired by Bayer CropScience), directing corn breeding programs in Europe, North America, Asia, North Africa and South America as well as a transgenic trait development facility in Champaign, Illinois. From 2004 to 2006 Klaus was a consultant for the Sehgal Family Foundation for corn breeding in Egypt and India. In 2006, Klaus joined Dow AgroSciences as North American Northern Corn Breeding Leader and became the Global Temperate Corn Breeding Leader in 2009. In this role, he developed the corn breeding strategy to adopt di-haploid technology, genomic prediction and novel decision making tools. Since 2014 he became North American Breeding Leader, responsible for all breeding activities here in corn, soybeans, cotton and sunflower. Klaus Koehler is also the past President of the North American Plant Breeders Association. From 2015 to 2017 consulted at the IGSS project at BecA, Nairobi. Since December 2017 Klaus became NA Corn Breeding Operations and Logistics Lead for Dow Dupont and since 2019 is NA Corn Breeding Logistics Lead at Corteva