Professor Ruth Defries
Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology
Columbia University, New York
Ruth DeFries is a professor of ecology and sustainable development at Columbia
University in New York. She uses images from satellites and field surveys to
examine how the world’s demands for food and other resources are changing land
use throughout the tropics. Her research quantifies how these land use changes
affect climate, biodiversity and other ecosystem services, as well as human
development. She has also developed innovate education programs in sustainable
Professor DeFries was elected as a member of the U.S. National Academy of
Sciences, one of the country’s highest scientific honors, received a MacArthur “genius” award, and is the recipient of many other honors for her scientific research. In addition to over 100 scientific papers, she is committed to communicating the nuances and complexities of sustainable development to popular audiences, most recently through her book “The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis.”
Professor DeFries is committed to linking science with policy, for example through her involvement with the High Carbon Stock study on sustainable palm oil, Environmental Defense Fund, Science for Nature and People, and reconciling conservation and development in central India.
Plenary Speakers for Conservation Asia 2016
Professor Harini Nagendra
Azim Premji University, Bangalore
Harini Nagendra is a Professor of Sustainability at Azim Premji University, Bangalore, India. She is an ecologist who uses satellite remote sensing coupled with field studies of biodiversity, archival research, institutional analysis, and community interviews to examine the factors shaping the social-ecological sustainability of forests and cities in the south Asian context. She has conducted research and taught at multiple institutions, and was most recently a Hubert H Humphrey Distinguished Visiting Professor at Macalester College, Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Professor Nagendra is a recipient of a 2013 Elinor Ostrom Senior Scholar award for her research and practice on issues of the urban commons, and communicates her research with the public through frequent writing for Indian newspapers and magazines. She also serves on the Scientific Steering Committees of the Global Land Project, and the Programme for Ecosystem Change and Society.
Her book “Nature in the City: Bengaluru in the Past, Present, and Future (Oxford University Press India, April 2016) examines the transformation of human-nature interactions in Bangalore from the 6th century CE to the present, addressing the implications of such change for the urban sustainability of fast-growing cities in the global South.
Dr. Erik Meijaard
Borneo Futures, Brunei
Erik Meijaard is an Indonesia-based conservation scientist. He has worked on a wide range of topics ranging from an initial focus on ecology, taxonomy, and biogeography to conservation policy, strategy and economics. Erik is based in Jakarta from where he works as a free-lance consultant. He coordinates the Borneo Futures initiative, a research program that aims to inform land use planning and policy by establishing the social and environmental costs of economic development. Other recent scientific studies have included the fundamental way in which modern humans have influenced the orangutan during and before the Anthropocene, research on species boundaries, introgression and turnover in Suidae, and the relationships between land cover and flooding and local climate change and their associated societal costs.
Erik is the Chair of the IUCN/SSC Wild Pig Specialist Group and an Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Queensland. He has published 6 books, some 160 scientific papers and book chapter, and he is a frequent environmental columnist for the Jakarta Globe, where, in 2015, he coined the much cited term "the greatest environmental disaster of the 21st century", for Indonesia's ongoing fire and haze crisis..
Professor Ruth DeFries
Dr. Erik Meijaard
Professor Harini Nagendra
Executive Director, New Zealand and Pacific Islands and Ocean Programme
Sue Miller Taei is a part Samoan Kiwi and has lived and worked in Samoa, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands region for more than 30 years. She has supported, designed and led many conservation initiatives including for marine mammals, turtles, invasive species, birds, large and small scale protected areas, and the Forum Leaders’ Pacific Oceanscape.
The Pacific Oceanscape focuses on a vision Sue shares for integrated ocean and island management across domains and founded in culture, people and their relationship with nature. She has worked extensively in the Pacific Islands and notably as technical adviser for the region’s first large scale marine protected area – Kiribati’s Phoenix Islands Protected Area. She has advocated on issues of climate change and the ocean, including maritime boundary concerns for sea level rise impact and ocean acidification. The use of science has been foundational to all these efforts, particularly to inform marine policy and decision making and has been a basis for her contributation to many international, regional, and national initiatives.
Sue has worked in the region for Conservation International since 2005 and is currently their Executive Director New Zealand and Pacific Oceanscape Programme based at the University of Auckland. Sue was recognised for her efforts in conservation and the use of science with the SCB’s LaRoe Award in 2015.