Advisory Board

Joan Abrahamson
Joan Abrahmson is President of the Jefferson Institute, a public policy institute that brings creative thinking to practical problems. The Institute identifies innovative approaches to current policy problems and works to implement these solutions. A major emphasis of the Jefferson Institute is the future of cities. Other areas of activity are international security and economics, health, and the study of the creative process. Prior to her work with the Jefferson Institute, Dr. Abrahamson was Assistant Chief of Staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush. As a White House Fellow, she served as Special Assistant and Associate Counsel to Vice Presidents Walter Mondale and George Bush. Prior to this, she worked for the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva and for UNESCO’s Division of Human Rights and Peace in Paris. She planned and implemented the Vienna International Congress on the Teaching of Human Rights and the International Symposium on the Political Participation of Women. Dr. Abrahamson earned a BA from Yale University, MA from Stanford University, a doctorate in Learning Environments from Harvard University and a JD from the University of California at Berkeley. She also served as a law clerk for the Supreme Court of California. In June 1985, Dr. Abrahamson was named a MacArthur Prize Fellow.

John Allman
John Allman, Professor of Biology at the California Institute of Technology, is a well-recognized expert on primates, cognition, and evolutionary neuroscience. Dr. Allman studies brain evolution in mammals, especially primates from multiple perspectives, and has created a number of three-dimensional reconstructions of mammalian brains. He has been on the Duke Lemur Center board for more than 20 years. 

James E. Brumm
Jim Brumm is the founder and a member of the Gaemo Group, a private advisory group providing services to business, governments, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions on corporate governance and corporate responsibility, including business ethics, human rights, and environmental matters. He recently retired as the general counsel of the Mitsubishi International Corporation. He serves as chair of the board of the American Bird Conservancy and has been on the Board of Forest Trends. In 2010 Mr. Brumm was elected to the Board of the International Crane Foundation.

Rhett Butler
Rhett Butler is a journalist and founder of, an award-winning web-based news outlet that features articles on environmental concerns from around the world. The project began from a personal experience in Borneo, where he witnessed a tract of forest converted into wood chips for a paper pulp mill. The mission of Mongabay is to make people aware of the significance of the rainforests and the biodiversity they contain.

Susan Cummings-Findel
Susan Cummings-Findel is a philanthropist based in New York with a background in architecture and design. Susan and her husband, Stefan Findel, are the founders of the Child and Tree Foundation, an organization that has supported education and reforestation projects at Centre ValBio and Ranomafana for nearly 10 years. Ms. Cummings-Findel recently spearheaded the initiation of an education project linking schools in her home community of Rhinebeck, NY, and the Village of Ranomafana. Sunshine Comes First, an organization based in Rhinebeck that she founded, has funded the first year of the project. Susan and her husband are major collaborators with UNICEF in Germany. Through this relationship they recently introduced UNICEF Madagascar to Patricia Wright's work at Centre ValBio. The introduction is already bearing fruit with a major collaboration on communication and outreach to youth surrounding protected areas underway.

Tom Gillespie
Tom Gillespie is a professor studying infectious disease ecology at the Global Health Institute at Emory University. Dr. Gillepsie focuses on interactions among anthropogenic environmental change, biodiversity, and the ecology and emergence of pathogens of people, wildlife, and domestic animals. He takes an integrative interdisciplinary approach in active research projects in Africa and Latin America. Dr. Gillepsie also collaborates extensively with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Dr. Gillespie received a BSC from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and MSc and PhD from the University of Florida. He has been on the board of the Morris Animal Foundation since 2005.

James Herrnstein
James Herrnstein is the founding chair of the Centre ValBio board. Together with his wife, Robin, they spend significant time with Professor Wright and her team analyzing challenges and potential growth opportunities facing the Centre. Dr. Herrnstein is a Harvard University graduate (BS, PhD) and won the Bok Prize at Harvard in recognition of his dissertation work while obtaining a doctorate in astronomy. He was a Jansky Postdoctoral fellow in astronomy at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in New Mexico. In 1999 he won the prestigious Miller Fellowship at Berkeley and another prestigious fellowship at Cambridge, England, but chose to join Renaissance Technologies in Setauket, NY, instead as a senior researcher.

Robin McGary Herrnstein
Robin McGary Herrnstein graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Furman University with degrees in mathematics and physics, and holds a PhD in astronomy from Harvard University. While doing her graduate work she was a Harvard Merit Fellow and recipient of the Harvard Teaching Award. From 2003 to 2005, she was a post-doctoral fellow in astronomy at Columbia University and an instructor for the Frontiers of Science Program. She has worked at a variety of sites, including the Very Large Array in New Mexico, which is operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. In 2005 Dr. Herrnstein left astronomy to start a family.

Steig Johnson
Steig Johnson received a PhD in physical anthropology from the University of Texas, Austin in 2001, and then completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Patricia Wright from 2002 to 2006 in Madagascar. He is an associate professor of primatology and biological anthropology at the University of Calgary in Calgary, Canada. Dr. Johnson is interested in behavioral ecology, genetics, and conservation of lemurs in southeastern Madagascar. He was a key player in the early development of the Centre ValBio and remains an active contributor on its advisory board.

Thomas E. Lovejoy
Tom Lovejoy is President of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment. He is a conservation biologist who coined the term "biological diversity" in 1980 and drew up the first projections of global extinction rates for the Global 2000 Report to the President. Dr. Lovejoy spent years at the World Wildlife Fund U.S. before moving to the Smithsonian Institution, where he has served in many roles since 1987. He has sat on various White House councils, for six years as co-chair of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. At Interior, he helped coordinate the new National Biological Survey agency. He has been advisor to the United Nations Environment Program, the World Bank, and the U.N. Foundation. He was president of both the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the Society for Conservation Biology, and chair of the US Man and Biosphere Program. He serves on many scientific and conservation boards and advisory groups and is chair of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies. Author of numerous articles and books, he founded the public television series, Nature. Dr. Lovejoy is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Linnaean Society of London, and the American Ornithologists’ Union. Brazil awarded him both the Order of Rio Branco and the Grand Cross of the Order of Scientific Merit. He received the 2001 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement and the 2002 Lindbergh Award. Dr. Lovejoy holds a BS and PhD (Biology) from Yale University.

Stuart Pimm
Stuart Pimm has been the Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University in Durham, NC, since 2002. He is considered one of the world’s leading conservation scientists, and his work ranges from highly theoretical explanations of the structure of ecological communities to practical work to protect and manage endangered ecosystems. His early work on food webs laid a scientific foundation for explaining how losses in species diversity at one trophic level have consequences that cascade through other levels of ecological communities. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he published a series of papers on trophic levels, the length of food chains, and the structure of food webs, a body of work summarized in his first book, Food Webs, published in 1982. Dr. Pimm’s work on the structure of ecological communities produced ecological theory and empirical analyses regarding the conservation of populations and communities, summarized in his second book, The Balance of Nature? Ecological Issues in the Conservation of Species and Communities (1991). He also wrote a global assessment of biodiversity, The World According to Pimm: A Scientist Audits the Earth (2001). He is President of the NGO Saving Species, which has donated to projects in saving the critically endangered species, Prolemur simus.

Wai Poc
Wai Poc is a professional coach, focused on helping established and emerging leaders navigate organizational dynamics and politics to serve a higher mission. Wai's last in-house role was a Principal in Human Resources for R&D at the biotech Genentech (later acquired by Roche, a global pharmaceuticals). He was there for 10+ years, including when the start-up company grew to become the 11th largest valued company in market cap on the NYSE in 2009. Wai has partnered with engineers, business development, medical officers, and scientists. Prior to Genentech, Wai worked at UC Berkeley, California Pacific Medical Center, and Stanford University where he also earned his BA in Anthropology. He has certifications in Finance from Wharton and in Organizational Development from Columbia. Outside of work, Wai is a cultural adventurer, most recently returning from far western Muslim China where the 5-stans meet. Central to his interests is to cross cultural, professional, and organizational divides to bring diverse people together to achieve great things.

Noel Rowe
Noel Rowe is a nature photographer and the founder of Primate Conservation, Inc., an all-volunteer, not-for-profit foundation dedicated to studying, preserving, and maintaining the habitats of the least known and most endangered primates in the world. PCI provides grants to support the next generation of researchers and conservationists in the field. Mr. Rowe founded PCI in 1992 after witnessing the destruction of a lowland forest in Madagascar. He authored The Pictorial Guide to the Living Primates (1996) and has been a leading authority on primate conservation. Mr. Rowe is completing an inclusive web site called All the World’s Primates, which connects field workers with everyone interested in up-to-date information on primates including videos and photos from the field.

Barbara Wold
Barbara Wold is the Bren Professor of Molecular Biology at California Institute of Technology. She is also Director of The Beckman Institute, leading its continuing goal of building a research interface between chemistry and biology. Dr. Wold received her PhD from CalTech in 1978 and has been a professor of biology there since 1981. She has been active in national and international science policy concerned with the Human Genome Project, advising the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy programs in genomics. She has visited the Centre ValBio and participated in planning for new, more modern science at the Conservation Hall.

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