Jacqueline Batley, Australia

Jacqueline Batley is a Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Western Australia. She was awarded her PhD from the University of Bristol UK in 2001. She moved to Australia in 2002, as a senior research scientist at DPI-Victoria, then led a research group at the University of Queensland as an ARC QEII Research Fellow, from 2007-2014, before moving as an ARC Future Fellow to UWA. Jacqui has received several awards for her research including a University of Queensland Foundation Research Excellence Award, an ARC QEII Fellowship, an ARC Future Fellowship and the Nancy Millis Medal from the Australian Academy of Sciences. Jacqui has expertise in the field of plant molecular biology, genetics and genomics, gained from working in both industry and academia. Her research applies breakthrough biotechnological advances for canola crop improvement, through identification of genomic regions controlling traits, which are being translated to commercial outcomes. These novel methods will increase the yield of this important crop, contribute to national exports and increase global food security. Her work had led to new canola cultivars, with enhanced productivity, profit, and yield stability through identification of genes linked to shatter tolerance, blackleg disease resistance and oil quality. She is currently focussing on blackleg resistance in the Brassicaceae.

Edward Buckler, United States of America

Edward S. Buckler is a USDA-ARS Research Geneticist located at Cornell University.  He is recognised as a leader in the integration of quantitative and statistical genetics with genomic approaches, applying these tools to maize and other crops.  This work has provided insights into how complex traits are controlled, and he has identified genetic variation useful for crop improvement. Dr. Buckler's group has also helped lead in the development of the largest public genetic mapping resources for any species. Their research has provided insights into the genetic diversity of species, the genetic architecture of complex traits, hybrid vigor, and the genes controlling numerous traits related to plant flowering, development, starch, and pro-Vitamin A.  He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has numerous leadership positions with the crop genetics community.  He is the recipient of the inaugural NAS Food and Agriculture Award.

Jill Cairns, Zimbabwe

Jill Cairns is a Principal Scientist in the Global Maize Program at the International Maize and Wheat Breeding Institute (CIMMYT) based in Zimbabwe. She was awarded her PhD from the University of Aberdeen, UK and Africa Rice Centre, Côte d’Ivoire in 2003. Jill has more than sixteen years’ research experience in South East Asia, Latin America and Africa. Her research has focused on abiotic stress tolerance in both maize and rice. Her current research focuses on increasing genetic gains within maize breeding programs in eastern and southern Africa and understanding the effects of climate change on maize production in the region. Her work on the potential effects of climate change in sub-Saharan Africa led to heat stress being incorporated as a priority trait in southern Africa.

Steven Knapp, United States of America

Steven J. Knapp (Professor and Director of the Strawberry Breeding Program, Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis) is an expert on plant breeding, quantitative genetics, and the application of genomics in plant breeding.  His current research focuses on the breeding, genetics, and genomics of strawberry.  His laboratory has been engaged in the development of genomic resources for octoploid strawberry, including reference genomes, and the development of high-yielding, long shelf-life, disease resistant cultivars for short-day, day-neutral, and summer-plant production systems.  His previous research focused on the breeding, genetics, and genomics of sunflower, peanut, and industrial oilseeds.  He was previously Global Director of Breeding Technology for the Vegetable Division at Monsanto (2009-2015), Professor and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Graduate Program Coordinator in the Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Genomics at the University of Georgia (2004-2009), and Professor and Paul C. Berger Endowed Chair at Oregon State University (1985-2004).

Haydn Kuchel, Australia

Dr Haydn Kuchel is currently the CEO and Head of Breeding at Australia’s largest field crop breeding company, AGT. Prior to commencing this role, Haydn has worked as a breeder and research manager within AGT since 2002, releasing 16 wheat varieties including the popular Mace and Scepter. Haydn is also actively involved in research and education through his affiliate status with the University of Adelaide where he lectures in plant breeding and supervises postgraduate students. Haydn lives in Adelaide with his wife and three children.

Jill Wegrzyn, United States of America

Jill Wegrzyn is an Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of Connecticut and the Director of the Computational Biology Core within the Institute for Systems Genomics.  Her work focuses on the computational analysis and software development for non-model plant species. She develops approaches to examine gene finding, gene expression, transcriptome assembly, and conserved element identification. Jill also leads the TreeGenes Database, which represents an integrated genomic and phenomic community resource for forest tree species. Integration with other repositories and analytic frameworks has enabled her team to develop technologies to connect genotype, phenotype, and environmental data for georeferenced plants.

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