Monica Gruber PhD
Meghan Cooling PhD
Ganges Lim PhD
Antoine Felden PhD
Jess Russell MSc
Monica Gruber leads our programme. Since 2008 Monica has contributed to various invasive ant-related 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 and Coconut Pests and Diseases Toolkit. Monica is also Ecology and Environment Programmes Manager at Victoria Link Limited, a role that involves extending Victoria University's research in the Pacific.
Professor Phil Lester is the group's Principal Scientist. Phil works on the population dynamics, ecology and control of social insects (ants, bees and wasps). Phil's 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. Phil’s research goals include developing 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 risk to production.
Meghan Cooling's PhD investigated population declines of yellow crazy ants. She has worked on ecological field surveys in Hawaii, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Meghan plays a major role in the on-going development of the Pacific Invasive Ant Toolkit. She has also assisted with ant control work in Tokelau and a socioeconomic analysis of invasive ants.
Davide Santoro is a field ecologist with expertise in entomology and animal behavior, and a particular interest in the ecology and evolution of wasps, bees and ants. For his Ph.D., he studied the ecology of Vespula wasps, which are serious pests in a number of countries. Davide has been involved in research, teaching, and outreach activities in Europe, Central America, and New Zealand. He is assisting with a socioeconomic analysis of invasive ants, and also has a role as a research and teaching fellow at Victoria University of Wellington.
Ganges Lim's PhD research at Victoria University of Wellington focuses on functional ecology and biodiversity in coastal plants. Having spent more than a decade as a teacher and curriculum developer, Ganges will be helping to develop educational resources for use in the Pacific, around the theme of 'People in their environment'.
Tamlyn McKenzie completed a Masters degree in Conservation Biology at Victoria University of Wellington in 2016. Tamlyn joined the team to work on the Coconut Pests and Diseases Toolkit. She recently took up a role with the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries.
Antoine Felden investigated the molecular mechanisms underlying behaviour of the invasive Argentine ant in his PhD. Antoine contributed to ant control work and French translations for the Pacific Invasive Ant Toolkit. Antoine is now a postdoctoral researcher at Victoria University of Wellington.
Evan Brenton-Rule completed his PhD at Victoria University of Wellington, combining research on invasive species, biosecurity and law. He has assisted with workshops and ant control work in Tuvalu and Tokelau, and contributed to the Pacific Invasive Ant Toolkit. Evan is now working at the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries.
Jess Russell worked with us while she completed her Masters at Victoria University of Wellington. Her research experimented with viral resistance in honey bees through the transinfection of beneficial bacteria. Jess helped out with outreach resources and setting up surveys. Jess now works at the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries.
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's PhD research studied the effect of invasive wasps on native ants in the New Zealand beech forests. Allan works at the Ministry of Primary Industries as an advisor on emerging risks to New Zealand biosecurity.
We believe strongly in knowledge and opportunity sharing. We encourage student volunteers to contact Monica if you are interested in opportunities to help improve capacity in the Pacific.
Phil Lester PhD
Davide Santoro PhD
Tamlyn McKenzie MConBio
Evan Brenton-Rule PhD
Allan Burne PhD