Phil Lester, Director
Monica Gruber, Programme Manager
Meghan Cooling, Ecological Consultant
Evan Brenton-Rule, Ecological Consultant
Antoine Felden, Ecological Consultant
Allan Burne, Ecological Consultant
The Director of the group is Professor Phil Lester. Phil works on the population dynamics, ecology and control of social insects (ants, bees and wasps). His work on invasive ants in the Pacific began in Tokelau in 2002. He leads the Novel Invertebrate Pest Control Technologies programme in the National Science Challenge. The goal of this and much of Phil’s research programme is to develop socially acceptable, cost-effective, and targeted next-generation technologies, tools, and strategies to control invertebrate pests in natural and production ecosystems to protect taonga species and minimise cost and risk to agricultural industries
Monica Gruber is Programme Manager. Monica holds a PhD in ecology focussing on the genetics and populations dynamics of yellow crazy ants. Since 2008 she has contributed to various invasive ant activities in Australia, New Zealand, Tokelau, Kiribati, Samoa, French Polynesia and Fiji. Monica oversees the MFAT funded Activity Building resilience to biosecurity threats from invasive ants throughout the Pacific. She conceived of and led the development of the Pacific Invasive Ant Toolkit. Her research includes searching for novel candidates for bio-control of social insects.
Meghan Cooling has a PhD in ecology focussing on population declines of yellow crazy ants. She has worked on ecological field surveys in Hawaii, Canada and Australia. Meghan plays a major role in the on-going development of the Pacific Invasive Ant Toolkit. She has also assisted with ant management work in Tokelau.
Evan Brenton-Rule is a PhD student at Victoria University. Evan's research focuses on invasive species, biosecurity and law. He is assisting with workshops and ant management work in Tuvalu and Tokelau, and contributing to the Pacific Invasive Ant Toolkit.
Antoine Felden is a PhD student at Victoria University, investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying behaviour of the invasive Argentine ant. Antoine will be contributing to workshops, ant management work and the Pacific Invasive Ant Toolkit. He has also been helping with French translations for the toolkit.
Allan Burne contributed to the Pacific Invasive Ant Toolkit and held a key role in leading capacity-building workshops and ant management programmes in Kiribati and Tokelau. Allan has now returned to the Ministry of Primary Industries as an advisor on emerging risks to New Zealand biosecurity. He still contributes to Pacific Biosecurity work from time to time.
We believe strongly knowledge and opportunity sharing. We encourage student volunteers to contact Monica if you are interested in opportunities to help improve capacity in the Pacific.